Women-only scholarships still justified
Women student representatives are urging caution in questioning the relevance of women-only scholarships, and are highlighting their ongoing need.
“Women-only scholarships are the provision of financial support. Such scholarships pose no threat to others’ participation, yet they do make a positive difference to the recipients, just as with any other scholarship,” said Analiese Jackson, National Women’s Rights Officer of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA).
While the participation of women in higher education has experienced much growth and is cause for celebration, there’s no guarantee this recent phenomenon will continue, and there are many areas that women are still under-represented, particularly in the sciences. Women also don’t have equality of outcome in the workforce, with a prevailing gender pay gap and many issues with horizontal and vertical occupational segregation.
“How do you determine that equality has been achieved? Women have only made up half the tertiary population for around a decade, so not even one generation of women has experienced this level of participation. To suggest there are no issues and we can give up targeted encouragement seems very premature at this stage,” said Jackson.
“Many scholarships for women are also based on other criteria, such as second-chance education, supporting disadvantaged women, and disciplines where there are lower numbers of women. Without scholarships of this sort many women may have missed out on an education altogether,” added Jackson.
The use of completions by Victoria University researcher Paul Callister is a very controversial, and potentially inappropriate, measure of success. An increase in modern apprenticeships is a possible factor in fewer men choosing to study for degrees. Men’s patterns of study may also be changing, with an increase in one-off papers as opposed to entire degrees, however this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Rather than challenging legitimate initiatives, NZUSA encourages criticism of the harsh user-pays tertiary environment, and promotes the introduction of a universal student allowance as a sustainable solution supporting the participation of all in higher education.