I have superpowers – I’m invisible again…

// 8 February 2008

BooksThe Telegraph, picking up a story from the Times Higher, is reporting the Women’s Studies is dead. Yet again I find myself in the throes of either invisibility or non-existence. I know Holly is commenting on the laziness of the writing so I’ll keep myself to the academic and accuracy side of things.

Women’s Studies isn’t dead. It hasn’t disappeared. How do I know?

I convene two successful Women’s Studies courses at Ruskin College Oxford (one at undergrad and one postgrad level). I’ve also taught on Women’s Studies at University of Westminster.

You can also study similar courses at Aberdeen, Hull, Queens University Belfast, Sussex, Swansea and Warwick (where it’s called variously gender or women and gender but the course is substantially the same). MA and PhD applications are stable, if not rising, and the professional body, the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association continues to recruit well and has a new lease of life through post-graduate seminars and a student essay competition.

The closure of Women’s Studies courses at undergraduate level, which has happened at (amongst others) Lancaster, London Met and Roehampton has often had little to do with the actualities of recruitment of students (where other similar sized departments in other subjects remain open) and more to do with institutional issues with Women’s Studies. Often there has been a switch of emphasis from undergraduate courses to postgraduate (particularly taught MA level) which can be seen to have it’s roots in the fact that Women’s Studies is interdisciplinary and therefore at postgrad level welcomes women with all sorts of previous courses and experiences. You don’t have to do a Women’s Studies degree to get onto a Women’s Studies MA so, economically, why offer the undergrad when you can go straight for postgrad fees without passing go and without offering £200 (or an undergraduate bursary for widening participation purposes). Women’s Studies has also always sat on the margins of the academy, advocating for activism as well as academic learning and it is interruptive – Women’s Studies is, and always has been, both a subject and a critique at the same time.

So am I dead? Or invisible? The latter almost certainly – I wrote to the Times Higher to correct their pronouncement that courses no longer existed but haven’t heard whether they will publish yet. But I’m not dead, in fact I’m working on writing our undergraduate course at Ruskin to be even more exciting and even more relevant to women’s lives. So spread the word – we won’t be written out of existence quite that easily – we’re here, we’re still making a difference and despite attempts to silence us, we’re still talking about feminism and women’s issues.

To apply for any of the courses – contact them directly (particularly for postgraduate study) or contact UCAS (undergraduate courses only).

Image used under Creative Commons licence from Trevor D

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