A Women’s Studies academic course at Ruskin College is under significant threat following a review in light of direct funding changes.
The move has been criticised by those both in and outside the student community, particularly as Ruskin College’s Women Studies MA is the only in the country which does not require any formal qualifications.
An online petition addressed to Ruskin College writes: “The stated reason [for the potential closure of the course] is financial, but figures shared with our student rep at a recent meeting show that just two additional places are needed to make the programme self-funding.”
Saskia Richie, a mature student on the course and Chief Executive of charity Cheshire Without Abuse, criticised the potential closure, commenting: “There appears to have been no consultation or involvement of tutors or students at all. Our course rep asked about the two panels that have to ratify the decision, and found out that the same people sit on each panel, which seems strange.”
Ritchie, who describes herself as a “feminist and domestic abuse activist”, continued: “The finances for the programme are not fantastic but with only two more students the course would be fully self-funding. Myself and my fellow students believe that a strategy for promoting the course should be developed and that wider consultation should be undertaken.”
Ritchie went on to describe the Women’s Studies course as “life changing”.
“Access to a Masters Degree, access to the Bodleian Library, tutors from Oxford University, and links to Oxford students are all something I would have never expected to be possible. My career has developed on the back of lifelong activism but I have never had any formal post-16 qualifications. I strongly believe that the closure of this course will be to the detriment of many other mature students who come from a background of women’s activism.”
According to the course brochure, the Ruskin College Women’s Studies course “focuses on women’s lives, in contemporary society, historically and globally. It attracts people from a range backgrounds and recent experiences – work, community, family – who can demonstrate the ability to study at postgraduate level”.
The course is also said to challenge “long held masculine traditions, leading towards a broader culture of diversity and inclusivity”.
Students of the course have since gone on to work in education, social work, and trade unions. The online petition to save the course has 528 signatures at the time of writing.
A Ruskin College spokesperson told The Oxford Student: “The college is undergoing a curriculum review in the context of change in direct funding. In relation to the MA Women’s Studies no final decision has been made as the curriculum review process is not complete.”