Reprieve for feminist threatened with retirement

August 7, 2008

Sheila Rowbotham, the renowned feminist writer threatened with compulsory retirement by the University of Manchester, has won a three-year reprieve.

News that the professor of gender and labour history was being forced to retire at 65 provoked an outcry in May, with academics accusing the university of cynicism for keeping her on until the end of the latest research assessment exercise.

Others unfavourably compared the funding required for Professor Rowbotham, who had asked to stay on working a shorter week, with the £80,000 part-time teaching salary paid by Manchester to the author Martin Amis.

Times Higher Education has learnt that the professor will be kept on as a part-time academic on a third of her current pay. She will be known as a Simon professor, named after a local family that funds the chair.

"I'm obviously very pleased. It looked like there was no hope," Professor Rowbotham said. "I really thought nothing could be done." The job is a research post, but she will continue to teach a final-year course on counterculture after a student campaign.

Her biography of Edward Carpenter is due to be published in October, and she is completing another work on women's contribution to changing everyday life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

A Manchester spokesman said: "An agreement has been drawn up regarding Professor Sheila Rowbotham's employment at the University of Manchester, and we are waiting for this to be finalised."

Terry Eagleton, a prominent Marxist and professor of English literature at Manchester, is still facing compulsory retirement this year.

Under age discrimination laws, all employees have a right to ask to continue working beyond the normal retirement age of 65, but employers are under no obligation to accept their request.

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