BBC News

'Sexist' job title stays at University College, Durham

By Judith Burns
Education reporter, BBC News

image copyrightThinkstock
image captionUndergraduates at University College voted by more than two to one to retain the title of Senior Man

The Senior Man still runs the student council at Durham University's oldest college, after an attempt to change the "sexist" job title failed.

Undergraduates at University College have voted by more than two to one for their president to retain the job title of Senior Man.

Opponents say it puts women off - only nine women have held the job since 1988, compared with 19 men.

The university said no final decision on the matter had been reached.

Fourth year student Flic Burgess, who spoke in favour of change, described the title as "exclusionary" and said it risked alienating "potential non-male candidates".


In a written submission Ms Burgess said that women made up 53% of the undergraduate population of the college but, in the past five years, only two women had run for the position out of 13 candidates.

However, supporters of the title say the fact there have been female Senior Men means that not all women are "averse" to fulfilling the role.

"It's a question of leadership rather than gender."

A vote of the college's junior common rejected the motion by 154 to 72, with two abstentions.

This is out a total undergraduate population at the college of around 700.

University College is one of 15 undergraduate colleges which make up Durham university. It only began accepting female undergraduates in 1987.

Senior Woman

Two colleges, Hatfield and St Chad's use the title Senior Man - though St Chad's allows female presidents to adopt the title Senior Woman.

The rest have Junior Common Room Presidents.

In May this year, Hatfield college rejected a proposal by their female Senior Man to change her job title to reflect her gender more accurately.

At University College, Ms Burgess says she is trying to get a breakdown of the vote by gender.

"I am quite disappointed. This has been rumbling on in college for the past few years.

"This year has been one of the first times there has been a bit of momentum to push for a change and it hasn't happened."

In a statement, Durham University said the decision was not final.

The Junior Common Room vote was part of "the very early stages of a democratic consultation process", said the statement.

The final decision will be taken in February by "a deliberative jury with representatives from across the students and staff".

Related Topics

  • Universities
  • Durham
  • Sexism

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