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Whats happened to the gender agenda

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Presentation given at Educating Women Conference . Christchurch University, Kent UK 18.07.2013.
The presentation looks at on our findings from interviews with past students; focusing on the impact the courses had on their personal and public lives. It reports on on our findings from interviews with past students; focusing on the impact the courses had on their personal and public lives.

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Whats happened to the gender agenda

  1. 1. What’s happened to the gender agenda? The legacy of women’s/gender studies Gill Kirkup, Liz Whitelegg and Iris Rowbotham Centre for Research for Education and Educational Technology The Open University
  2. 2. Structure of the presentation • Then and now: contrasting the context of the times for feminism and universities • The courses, our students and staff • Researching the legacy: methods and themes • Themes: – students’ lives – impact of studying OU WGS – present-day HE context and the place of feminism • Is there a place for WGS in the HE curriculum today?
  3. 3. 1980s and early 1990s UK Feminism • Active feminist political movement: ‘WLM’ • 20 yrs. since the publication of Friedan’s ‘Feminine Mystique’ • UK 1970s Equal Pay and Equal Opportunities legislation helped increase educational and employment opportunities for women • Many young self-identified feminists • Young feminist scholars • Feminism challenges established thinking • New career opportunities and earning possibilities for women with family responsibilities • Sense of solidarity among women over gender injustices UK Higher Education • Expansion of HE- ‘new’ universities • High quality distance education accepted (OU) - OU took first students in 1971 • Increased recruitment of working class staff and students to HE • Increased recruitment of women staff and students to HE • Expansion of part-time HE • Expansion of mature entrants • Politicization of curriculum • Development of interdisciplinary courses
  4. 4. NOW: 2013 UK Feminism • Feminism seen by many women as a historic movement – 2nd wave belongs to 1970s • Many young women believe they have equality • Feminist scholarship part of the establishment • Many feminist scholars near retirement • Women in UK employed at similar rates of activity as men – although more women part-time. • Liberal feminist ‘equality’ aims generally socially accepted • Structural inequalities still exist – some are new • Global Feminist activism around violence, pornography, sexual exploitation, war, trafficking in women, genital mutilation UK Higher Education • Contraction of HE • Student fees of up to £9,000 pa • Reduction in mature entrants • Contraction of curriculum • Contraction of academic staff numbers • Fewer upwardly mobile students • Drive to deliver vocational subjects and employability • Large % of overseas students • Online and distance education promoted across sector • Increased use of technology for teaching • Encouragement of private/ commercial partnerships to deliver HE
  5. 5. The Changing Experience of Women
  6. 6. Issues in Women’s Studies
  7. 7. Student numbers - 1983 to 1999
  8. 8. Students’ Age/Gender on entry U221 1983 Male = 8.6% U207 1992 Male = 3.9%
  9. 9. Students’ Qualifications on entry U221 1983 U207 1992
  10. 10. Method •Total number of alumni from the cohort : 2,943 •Those giving email address invited to respond : 1,039 •Responded to email: 198 (19% response rate) •From this cohort, 120 identified for more possible in- depth work •Random sampling produced 60 for interview
  11. 11. Current state of research project • Currently: –33 respondents have been interviewed –7 declined to take part further –12 did not respond –4 had inactive email accounts –6 remain to be interviewed • Two of the respondents were male • Data is being analysed using Thematic Analysis • Earlier paper on setting up the courses: Kirkup and Whitelegg (2013) ‘The legacy and impact of Open University women's/gender studies: 30 years on’ Gender and Education, Vol 25, Issue 1
  12. 12. Theme 1: Our students’ lives • Educational opportunities • Family life and support • Employment and life outside the family • Students’ position on feminism
  13. 13. Theme 2 : Impact of the course • Memories of specific content • Personal is Political • Impact on confidence and career • Solidarity with other women • Expectations of Social Change and the impact of Feminism.
  14. 14. NOW: 2013 UK Feminism • Feminism seen by many women as a historic movement – 2nd wave belongs to 1970s • Many young women believe they have equality • Feminist scholarship part of the establishment • Many feminist scholars near retirement • Women in UK employed at similar rates of activity as men – although more women part-time. • Liberal feminist ‘equality’ aims generally socially accepted • Structural inequalities still exist – some are new • Global Feminist activism around violence, pornography, sexual exploitation, war, trafficking in women, genital mutilation UK Higher Education • Contraction of HE • Student fees of up to £9,000 pa • Reduction in mature entrants • Contraction of curriculum • Contraction of academic staff numbers • Fewer upwardly mobile students • Drive to deliver vocational subjects and employability • Large % of overseas students • Online and distance education promoted across sector • Increased use of technology for teaching • Encouragement of private/ commercial partnerships to deliver HE
  15. 15. What might role might an undergraduate interdisciplinary feminist course play in 2013? • Who are the audience? • What do they need? • What are the issues it should address? • How would the course relate to activism? –To which movements/organisations –And what role would it play

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