Universities need to take action on gender balance, says report

The majority of academic staff under 25 are women, but for every age group after that the majority are men, according to a new report out today.

The annual Equality in HE: statistical report 2014 by the Equality Challenge Unit found older students, disabled staff and students, women and people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds need more focused support from their universities.

It found that women continued to be underrepresented at senior levels in universities. 78.3% of professors, 72.1% of senior managers and 79.9% of vice-chancellors/principals were men. It also found a 13.6% median pay gap between male and female academics. Many more women than men are working part time, but only 6.9% of academic senior management roles are part time, it says.

The report also found that there continue to be low proportions of women studying engineering and technology, despite initiatives to increase numbers in these subjects. Only 15.8% of engineering and technology students were women. Male students were least represented in subjects allied to medicine, where they made up only 20.6% of students studying these areas.

The report also found some black and minority ethnic students are more likely to leave before the end of their course, are receiving lower degrees, and have lower rates of employment after qualifying. It said there has been little progress for ethnic minority staff.

David Ruebain, chief executive of ECU, said: “This year the data shows us that the sector is managing to reduce the ethnicity degree attainment gap, is providing a more inclusive and attractive environment for greater numbers of disabled students, and numbers of BME and female senior staff are slowly increasing.

“However, universities need to be focussing on specific areas to take action if we are going to transform the culture of HE into one that is fair, inclusive, and offers the same chances to everyone.

“The changes we need to make for female and BME staff and students are well researched and we continue to take action to actively make these changes. Additionally, we must continue to learn and address emergent challenges highlighted by the data, such as the different support needs of students from different age groups.”

The report said institutions need to focus on supporting the retention and achievement of older students, for example how they support students with multiple commitments or those whose courses have high levels of distance learning. It also found universities were doing positive work around access for disabled students, but said staff disclosure rates are much lower, despite some improvement in the figures.


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