Women’s Studies alive and kicking

// 16 July 2008

women students Further to rather overblown press presumptions that Women’s Studies is dead (see here, here and here, there is good news on the horizon. As hinted at here Ruskin College Oxford is recruiting for it’s Y1 course in Women’s Studies. How has Ruskin managed to keep it when almost all others have failed? Two things – Ruskin is an adult learning institution which doesn’t rely on recruiting from the traditional post-A level market and there is an institutional commitment to the subject.

I don’t want to sound like a party political broadcast here but Ruskin is unique in being an adult education residential college which offers students with no educational qualifications the chance to work towards a degree. For women this has been key in making available educational opportunities denied to them by more “traditional” models. Women don’t have to spend two years doing A Levels or a year doing an Access course (if you can find them!) to enrol at Ruskin – they just need bucket loads of enthusiasm and a desire to learn. Alleviating the pressures of pre-entry qualification makes degree level learning more accessible to a wider variety of students and means that it’s less problematic for women with children or other commitments whatever their age.

And institutional commitment to Women’s Studies has been key, and is something we may be alone in retaining aided without a doubt by having feminist academics in two key positions. But Women’s Studies also fits with Ruskin’s ethos of accesible education for those previously excluded – whether that is socially or educationally. Women’s Studies has always had a commitment to experiential knowledge – that is knowledges borne of women’s experiences because that often does/did not match the knowledge created by the academy.

What needs to happen now? Women’s Studies needs to recruit at Ruskin to ensure it’s survival – and to prove there is a market for what will be the only single subject, Women’s Studies degree course in the country! So, get the word out to women you know, we still have some places for September 2008 and most of our Y1 student qualify for funding support for their studies, not just the student loans! If you know of places where we can put out our e-flyer or distribute our hard copy flyers and prospectuses – let me know on llivesey@ruskin.ac.uk. Any questions or queries, I’m happy to answer them.

In short, think about who might be interested and let them know the course still exists.

Ruskin also runs an MA in Women’s Studies on a weekend residential basis to help women who work also. More information on that is also available on the website.

With huge thanks to Jess for suggesting I blog on this!

Comments From You

Sian // Posted 16 July 2008 at 1:01 pm

Ruskin College is ace-my cousin, who was a single mum working as a waitress, went there and is now a teacher. The support she got from them was amazing.

Austin // Posted 18 July 2008 at 9:03 pm

Why “get the word out to women you know”? Why not get the word out to anyone who would be interested? Or is being female a requirement of womens studies? I find it very difficult to reconcile the concepts of demanding equality whilst still insisting that men and women are somehow different, when many consider gender to be primarily a social construct.

Louise // Posted 5 August 2008 at 9:59 pm

Austin – no being female isn’t a prerequisite to taking Women’s Studies at all. But feminist networks have been the most successful way of advertising Women’s Studies courses which have traditionally been attacked by male academics and male-run institutions as irrelevant. Given the closures of Women’s Studies programmes on issues of lack of institutional support I don’t have much hope that it’s men that’ll keep Women’s Studies courses going…

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