Scots formula for more women

August 4, 1995

The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council has earmarked Pounds 300,000 for guides to encourage and support women in science, engineering and technology, backed by pilot projects to develop good practice highlighted in the guides.

Higher Education Statistics Agency figures have revealed that only 15 per cent of full-time engineering and technology students are female. SHEFC is inviting bids for the guides which will give advice on recruitment and admissions, teaching and learning methods, student academic support, careers advice, and research and staff management practices.

Glasgow University engineer Judy Wilkinson has claimed that higher education fails to market engineering in a way that attracts female students even though this could promote interest in solving environmental problems.

Dr Wilkinson, of Glasgow's department of electronics and electrical engineering, who has been investigating pupils' attitudes to engineering, said there was a crucial difference between scientists and engineers, in that scientific research did not necessarily involve other people, whereas the whole point of engineering was to design or construct something for people to use.

But secondary and tertiary education presented a "masculine" approach to science which underplayed its social implications and its environmental and medical applications.

"A survey of female graduate students showed that the projects chosen tend to have practical relevance, and females specialise in areas such a rural electrification schemes or building control," Dr Wilkinson said.

But Government initiatives to increase the number of women in engineering had failed to address the problem of its image or its curriculum, and the impact of such schemes had not matched the time and effort put into them.

Glasgow University figures, which were not unusual, showed that while women had achieved near parity in arts, law, medicine and science, the number going into engineering ranged from 2 per cent to 15 per cent.

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