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Scholarship for postgraduate philosophy students advertises preference for male applicants

A University of Edinburgh postgraduate scholarship has been advertised as showing preference to male applicants.

The award, known as the ‘J. Warren Macalpine Scholarship’, provided a description on the University website which has angered some students. The website stated: “[This scholarship] is awarded to assist students registered for the degree of PhD in subjects of Philosophy. Preference will be shown to male students with an interest in Aesthetics.”

Writing to The Student, Laura Fox, Amanda McCann and Tess Davis, three postgraduate female students, described their discontent at this type of award being advertised by the University of Edinburgh.

“Not only were we shocked that this would be publicised on an official university page, we were appalled that gender would be the deciding factor between candidates,” they told The Student.

Following an inquiry about the scholarship in question, a University spokesperson advised that the specifically gender-oriented conditions of the scholarship have been removed from the University page.

“The conditions that stipulate that a preference should be given to male students would have been at the request of the donor,” the spokesperson said.

Speaking personally, Fox described the disappointment she felt that any scholarship award should favour applicants based on gender. “The fact that the University doesn’t have a problem with offering a scholarship that excludes women makes me question whether they’re really committed to tackling sexism,” she told The Student.

“Funding issues are a big part of many people’s decision about whether or not to pursue postgraduate study, and this certainly isn’t encouraging me,” she said.

McCann concurred with Fox, telling The Student: “Ultimately, displaying that information was at [the University’s] discretion, and there is a worry over what it legitimises.”

Davis highlighted that while the scholarship in question may have been trying to do good, the exclusion it advertises outweighs the positive effect it was aiming for.

“Although the scholarship will undoubtedly help a candidate through their education, which is especially difficult to fund at a postgraduate level, the exclusion that is attached to the scholarship outweighs the financial opportunity that it will bring,” Davis told The Student.

“This suggests to women who hope to continue their education to this higher academic level that they are not valued by the school, and their right to an education is not as important as their male counterparts’.

“It is not a matter of this scholarship opening doors to students, but rather than limiting routes to certain minorities, in this case women, that are already discriminated against in education. This is especially crucial in a field where women are undoubtedly underrepresented at a postgraduate level,” she continued.

Fox, McCann, and Davis also highlighted some key statistics, which have been verified by The Student, which they felt demonstrated why the J. Warren Macalpine Award was sexist and discriminatory.

“The Times Higher Education World University Rankings found that only 18.5 per cent of professors at the University of Edinburgh are female, and given that only six of the 29 Philosophy lecturers listed on the faculty page are women, it can hardly be argued that this scholarship exists in the name of gender diversity.

“There is no similar requirement for the award to go to anyone disadvantaged by class, ethnic background, disability, and it is not even clear if the award is based on previous academic merit. This is purely gender-based discrimination,” they continued.

The students also drew attention to their belief that this Award violates the Students’ Association internal audit policy, which states that the Association is mandated to “recognise the existence of structural and systematic oppression and discrimination within society, specifically in regards to race, gender, disabilities and mental health, and LGBTQ+ identities.”

The policy also pledges to “provide more adequate support for students who are dealing with these structural oppression, as well as lobby the University to improve how they handle these issues.”

 This is a developing news story.

Image: ESB Professional

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