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Tomorrow is International Women’s Day: how do women fare in HE leadership?

  • 7 March 2015
  • By Nick Hillman

Women are woefully under-represented in UK national life, including in the leadership of our higher education institutions. For example, while there are some outstanding female Vice-Chancellors, they remain the exception rather than the norm.

Arguably, the imbalance starts at the very top as the last few people with responsibility for higher education at the Cabinet table have all been men. Oxford has never had a female Chancellor or Vice-Chancellor while Cambridge has only ever had one female Vice-Chancellor. Yet, across the sector, there are now more female than male students.

So it is fitting that there is an important area of British higher education where women fill nearly all the top roles: mission groups, representative bodies and sector-owned organisations. Universities UK is headed by a woman who replaced another woman, the Russell Group, University Alliance and Million+ have only ever had female leaders and UCAS and HESA both have female chief executives.

If there were more universities headed by women, that fact would be less worthy of note but it is perhaps worth celebrating for the signal it sends about the sector’s openness to change.

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