Gerd Bjørhovde, Chair of the Committee for Gender Balance in Research. (Photo: Kristin Skaar)

Positive towards gender points

The question of whether gender points should be awarded to men who apply for female-dominated study programmes is a topic of much discussion these days. The KIF Committee has reviewed its arguments for and against introducing gender points and has issued a statement.

June 15, 2012

The statement by the Committee for Gender Balance in Research (the KIF Committee) comes in part as a response to an enquiry from the Norwegian Nurses Organisation’s student leader, who wants to introduce gender points for nursing studies. Recently the University of Oslo (UiO) concluded an internal consultation round after receiving a similar proposal from dentistry, psychology and medicine. In the end, the leadership of UiO decided to reject the proposal.

In its statement, the KIF Committee is positive towards gender points.

Effective measure

The KIF Committee believes that gender points can be an effective measure, and states: “The committee believes that gender balance will improve the quality of the study programmes, that it will have a positive effect on the development of the disciplines and that it will enhance the students’ development and expertise.”

Some of the arguments in favour of gender points include:

  • The quality argument: Gender balance in the student body has a positive effect on the quality of education. If both genders have an opportunity to make an impact on the study programmes, the quality of the educational content will be improved.
  • The role model argument: The presence of good role models has a positive effect on recruitment and completion for men as well as women – as seen, for example, in the experience of the University of Agder which has a relatively large number of women in technology studies. Introducing measures such as gender points will increase the number of students and their completion rate for both genders.
  • The societal argument: Viewed from a larger societal perspective, a gender-balanced student body is an asset. Just as we need female technology experts to influence innovation and technological development, we also need male psychologists and nurses. Inherent in this is the idea that those who obtain a higher education should reflect society as a whole.

Although the KIF Committee is positive towards gender points, several issues need to be taken into account before the measure is implemented. The measure should apply to the underrepresented gender, regardless of whether it is women or men who are in the minority, and it should be introduced only in programmes where there is competition for study spaces. The solution for studies with low average marks could be to set a lower limit for admission. The KIF Committee also views gender points as a temporary measure which can make an impact in a transition period and which ends when the gender distribution reaches 30/70.

Counter arguments

The KIF Committee also presents arguments against introducing gender points:

  • The fairness argument: Gender points are unfair because students with poorer marks jump the queue in front of those with better grades.
  • The meritocracy argument: Higher education and research have a meritocratic orientation – that is, those with the highest merits, in this case academic marks, are the ones who win out.

Common to all these counter arguments is that they involve the individual’s rights and qualifications. However, the KIF Committee puts greater emphasis on the arguments in favour of gender points, which it believes will improve the study programmes in terms of quality and development of the disciplines, in addition to enhancing the students’ development and expertise.

The KIF Committee’s recommendation

Based on the enquiry from the Norwegian Nurses Organisation, the KIF Committee recommends that the Ministry of Education and Research consider introducing gender points for nursing studies. The committee also hopes that the research sector will discuss introducing gender points as a means of achieving better gender balance in study programmes.

Tranlsated by Connie Stultz.

Gender points

The KIF Committee’s complete statement, Additional points for the underrepresented gender – statement from the KIF Committee, is available in the attachment below.

According to section 7-9 of the regulations on admissions to higher education, the Ministry of Education and Research can decide whether certain study programmes should award one to two additional points to applicants of the underrepresented gender. This is the mechanism available to the ministry for improving the gender balance in study programmes, but the individual institutions may also take the initiative to introduce gender points.

Female applicants receive two points for:

  • two- and three-year engineering programmes (except for chemistry)
  • maritime studies at the university-college level
  • agricultural studies at public university colleges
  • civil engineering studies (integrated master’s programme) at NTNU (except for industrial design, industrial chemistry and biotechnology)

Male applicants receive two points for:

  • veterinary medicine and veterinary nursing at the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science.

Source: Norwegian Universities and Colleges Admission Service (NUCAS)

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