Murray Edwards College, a woman-only institution in Cambridge, has changed its admission policy. It now allows transgender students who identify as female to apply and attend the college.
Cambridge University’s two other women-only colleges still only accept applicants who are legally recognised as women. Lucy Cavendish is expected to announce a similar change, when its council meets next week.
Dame Barbara Stocking, president of Murray Edwards College, said, “We are a college that is open to all outstanding young women and so it is absolutely right, both legally and within our set of values, for anyone who identifies as female to be able to apply to study with us.”
“There is now a greater understanding of the complexities of gender. In order that we remain true to our mission of being open to all outstanding young women, we recognise that it is right for anyone who identifies as female, regardless of their born gender, to be able to apply to study with us.”
Move draws flak
The college’s moves have been criticised by some professors and even feminists. Germaine Greer, a lecturer at another women’s college, said the decision was ridiculous. If gender is not binary, then they shouldn’t be a single sex college.
Victoria Smith, editor at Feminist Current magazine, also questioned the need to have single sex colleges if gender is only based on self-identity. Other critics feel that the move will lead to an end of women-only spaces.
In response, Stocking said that there is a need for women’s colleges because “there is so much gender inequality in the world we believe there is a need for a place such as ours that has a special and additional focus on women’s learning to meet the challenges of the workplace.”
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