Scottish universities could impose gender quotas by 2030

A new report on the gender gap in Scottish universities has suggested that by 2030 no individual course will be permitted to have more than 75 per cent male or female students.

The Gender Action Plan: Interim report is published by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), and seeks to outline the actions required to help rebalance the gender gap. In Scotland, as in across the UK, STEM subjects in universities tend to be dominated by male students, while subjects such as psychology, teacher training, social studies and nursing are populated with a high proportion of women.

(Credit: World economic Forum)
(Credit: World economic Forum)

“Scotland’s colleges and universities continue to experience significant and persistent gender bias in applications to certain subjects which are seen to be traditionally ‘male’ or ‘female,’” states the report.

“Some courses and subject areas have seen applications from one gender at 98 per cent and historically there seems to have been little positive change in some of these figures. Furthermore, since the early 1990s, the gap between the participation rates between men and women at university has grown, with women far more likely to participate than men.”

While the intention of the quotas is no doubt admirable, it raises questions around certain initiatives that are already under way in Scotland. Earlier this week West College Scotland announced plans to create an all-female computing course in an effort to encourage higher female participation in IT. It is unclear whether exemptions will be in place for programmes such as this.

“We believe our plans are ambitious and challenging, but are based on developing good practice,” Professor Alice Brown, SFC Chair, said in the report.

“With greater focus and co-ordination and partnership working across the whole education system in Scotland, we are confident that we can achieve significant change.”

The final report and proposals will not be published until May of this year.