Article
Written by Student Rights on 13 May 2013 at 12am

REPORT: Unequal Opportunity - Gender Segregation on UK University Campuses

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Executive Summary

  • Recent media reports have focused attention on the issue of gender segregation on the UK’s campuses, with events at University College London (UCL) and the University of Leicester leading to investigations by university authorities;

  • Student Rights event monitoring programme enables an in-depth analysis of this issue, with 180 events logged in the period March 2012 to March 2013 investigated for evidence of segregation;

  • 46 of these events (25.5%) at 21 separate institutions were found to have either explicitly promoted segregation by gender, or implied that this would be the case, with six of these cancelled before taking place;

  • As all 21 of these institutions have equality and diversity policies which prohibit discrimination on the grounds of gender, as well as a legal responsibility to do so under the Equality Act 2010, this briefing uncovers potential failings in these duties;

  • Institutions should therefore communicate equality and diversity responsibilities to the student body repeatedly throughout the year, and monitor events where risk of a breach exists.

  • Institutions should also ensure that management/executive or elected positions in student societies are bound to compliance with university policies against segregation or discrimination on foundation and/or re-election.

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Introduction

The issue of gender segregation at UK universities has recently featured in the media, as institutions respond to an increasing number of reports claiming that women are being made to sit separately from men at various events.[i]

One recent example of an event held by the Islamic Society at the University of Northampton described seating arrangements as “open to both Brothers and Sisters, with segregation adhered-to”.[ii]

Student Rights has shown over recent years that this kind of forced segregation is not an isolated incident.[iii] This briefing sets out to highlight that fact, outlining a number of events which either promote segregation directly, or allude to it indirectly through policies stated elsewhere or promotional material which provides separate contact details for men and women.

Student Rights also notes that Chapter Two of the Equality Act 2010 legislates that Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have a legal responsibility to ensure that they provide a work and study environment which is free from discrimination and harassment.[iv]

In addition to this, all universities maintain equality and diversity policies affirming this responsibility. By allowing segregation on campuses, HEIs are failing in this duty. 

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[i]See Guardian, ‘Inquiry launched after Islamic group holds segregated lecture’, available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2013/apr/15/leicester-investigating-islamic-group-gender-segregationand UCL bans Islamic group from campus in row over segregated seating’, available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/15/ucl-bans-islamic-group-over-segregationLast visited 02 May 2013

[ii]Student Rights, ‘Gender segregation advertised by Islamic Society at Northampton University’, available at http://www.studentrights.org.uk/article/2079/gender_segregation_advertised_by_islamic_society_at_northampton_universityLast visited 02 May 2013

[iii]Student Rights, ‘Segregation at UCL is no exception to the rule’, available at http://www.studentrights.org.uk/article/2059/segregation_at_ucl_is_no_exception_to_the_ruleLast visited 02 May 2013

[iv]See HM Government, ‘Equality Act 2010’, available at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contentsLast visited 08 May 2013. Part 6, Chapter 2 specifically focuses on Higher Education.