Mistress spurns masters

August 15, 1997

A postgraduate student at Leeds University is seeking to outlaw "sexist" bachelors and masters degrees by insisting that she should be awarded the title Mistress of Arts instead.

Sue Wilks, who is studying for an MA in feminist theory, history and criticism in the visual arts, believes the time is long overdue to banish the "archaic male dominated" language of higher education and is taking legal advice on how best to mount a challenge.

Griselda Pollock, author of the influential book Old Mistresses and a professor at Leeds said: "This is not a piece of political correctness or summer madness, the campaign is extremely important."

Professor Pollock pointed out that the origins of the title bachelor degree hark back to an age when scholars were churchmen who were required to be celibate.

Leeds University said it had made every effort to avoid sexist terminology. But a spokesperson said that while the debate was interesting, it could only be resolved at a national level.

Ms Wilks agrees and has alerted MPs Harriet Harman and Joan Ruddock to her plight. "These titles are autocratically dictated and imposed upon us and they signify a time when women were disqualified from study. Today they are ridiculous and illogical."

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