Four of five appointments to the position of university court chairperson over the last year in Scotland have gone to women.
They include Dr Anne Richards, who was appointed as Vice-Convener at The University of Edinburgh Court in August.
Women are also now in similar positions at the Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow Caledonian, Heriot-Watt in Edinburgh, and Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.
Last year, statistics gathered by NUS (National Union of Students) Scotland indicated that in 2011/12, only one quarter of university court members in Scotland’s 18 universities were women.
This prompted comments from NUS Scotland and the Scottish Parliament education committee that many Scottish higher education institutions ascribe to “Victorian values”.
Education Secretary Mike Russell welcomed the news that the situation is changing, at least at the top of university courts. He said: “We very much welcome the positive progress that has been made by Scottish universities in addressing the matter of female representation within their management structures. “
The Scottish Government endorses gender equality more widely, including in Scottish boardrooms and public bodies, and has been leading calls for increased representation across the country.”
However, the Scottish government has been criticised for not adopting recommendations by a group of academics in 2011. They insisted that legislation should require at least 40 per cent of university governing body membership to be female.
Mary Senior, Scotland Official at the University and Colleges Union (UCU) commented: “It’s good news that more women are being appointed chairs of university courts at last, but there is still much further to go.
“If the threat of legislation in the background is forcing universities to improve their record on representation, then imagine how good they could be if the Scottish Government actually legislated.”
Chris Belous, Treasurer of the University’s Feminist Society (FemSoc), told The Student: “I do find it actually quite frustrating that we still have to go on about how many women are in these positions as opposed to men, but it kind of reflects the fact that we still don’t fully expect and accept and see as normal the idea that women can be in the highest positions.”
Dr Anne Richards replaced Professor Stuart Monro as Vice-Convener at The University of Edinburgh Court this August. The 22-member governing body scrutinises governance, finance and administration in the University. Richards, who is currently Chief Investment Officer (CIO) at Aberdeen Asset Management, is considered one of The University of Edinburgh’s great living alumni.
After graduating from the university in the early 1980s with a first-class honours degree in Electronics and Electrical Engineering, she went on to work at the CERN research facility in Switzerland, before returning to the UK and taking up prominent advisory, and eventually business, roles.
University of Edinburgh Principal Timothy O’Shea, commented prior to Richards’ appointment to the Court leadership: “In Anne the University has a new Vice-Convener who has considerable experience in leading on major strategic issues.
“I am confident that she will also make a significant contribution.”