Prejudice, professors and pride

June 12, 1998

HOW can The THES state that "academics are probably less prejudiced than most professions" (June 5)? Let us take the example of gender. Damning evidence over recent years has demonstrated the continuing under-representation of women in academia (only 9 per cent of professors), despite increasing numbers of women students.

Research published recently by the Association of University Teachers showed that out of the 178 higher education institutions, 20 had no women professors and eight had no women senior lecturers or senior researchers.

The 1990 Hansard Society report noted the irony that: "institutions dedicated to the unravelling of truth are themselves still wrapped in the myths of the past."

Evidence from McNabb and Wass (Oxford Economic Papers, 1997) concluded that "even after controlling for rank, age, tenure and faculty, a gender effect in the remuneration of British academics remains". The average differential between women's and men's salaries was found to be 15 per cent.

Analysis of a cohort employed in 1975 and still working in 1992 revealed that more men than women were promoted, and that, unless great differences can be accounted for solely in terms of differential productivity, a gender element exists in promotions exercises.

Even at the undergraduate level, where you note that women overtook men in admissions years ago, women are not awarded firsts in equal proportions to men, particularly at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Perhaps we require "new courses and new approaches" in order to enable our women students to achieve their full potential.

These figures, together with other evidence relating to discrimination on the grounds of race and sexual orientation, reveal the uncomfortable fact that although one might consider that the academic world is immune from prejudice and discrimination, nothing could be further from the truth.

Clare McGlynn. Lecturer in law. University of Newcastle on Tyne

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