Call for women to take on top university roles

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UNIVERSITIES SHOULD be doing much more to ensure more women are appointed to top positions in higher education, ministers have said.

Just one university vice-chancellor in five is female, and there is room for improvement, they suggested.

The comments come in the Government’s annual grant letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) which sets out higher education funding for the academic year ahead.

In it, Business Secretary Vince Cable and Universities Minister Greg Clark says there should be more equality in senior university positions.

“We have made great strides in making admission to universities open to all with the potential to succeed in higher education,” the letter says, adding Ministers support the work being done on equality and diversity.

But it adds: “Equality and diversity are vital at all levels, not just admissions, but also in senior leadership.

“For example, currently only one vice-chancellor in five is female and we believe the sector should go much further to seek out and harness the diverse talent available.”

The Ministers call on HEFCE to work with university bosses and others to ensure that higher education governors and senior managers “are drawn from the full range of excellent people, including who are under-represented at the top level of higher education”.

No quotas are given, but Mr Cable suggested that universities should attempt to replicate work done by top City firms.

As the grant letter was published, the Business Secretary said: “Many universities have also taken some steps to address diversity in their senior management teams, but with only one in five female vice-chancellors there is definitely room for improvement.

“I encourage them to continue their work in this area to mirror the excellent progress that has been made in the FTSE 100 boardrooms.”

The letter says that total funding available to universities is anticipated to increase from £11.1bn to £12.1bn in 2015/16. This figure includes public funding plus the estimated income from tuition fees.

A breakdown shows that that the teaching grant for universities is being reduced from a baseline of £1.9bn in 2014/15 to a budget of £1.7bn in 2015/16, while the research grant remains static at £1.57bn.

At the same time, estimated fee income from students – who now pay a maximum of £9,000 a year – is due to rise from a baseline of £7bn in 2014/15 to a budget of £8.1bn in 2015/16.

Both Leeds Beckett and Leeds Trinity Universities have female vice-chancellors, Professors Susan Price and Margaret House respectively.

Professor Price, who is due to retire at the end of September, is credited with success at Leeds Beckett, previously called Leeds Metropolitan.

She joined in January 2010 following a period of negative headlines about an institution that employs 3,200 people and has 32,000 students.

Professor House, interviewed in 2013, said: “I don’t feel I’ve been held back a lot by being a woman, but I do feel I’ve had to be better than my male counterparts,” she says. “A woman being as good as a man just isn’t good enough – unless, of course, you are very pushy.”