20 Jul 2008

Should female-only scholarships be abolished?

4:49 pm on 20 July 2008

The Human Rights Commission is considering whether female-only scholarships should be abolished.

A senior researcher at Victoria University's Institute of Policy Studies, Paul Callister, says women are now out-performing men at all levels of tertiary study.

He's written to the commission to ask it to clarify whether Human Rights Act exemptions that allow discrimination in favour of disadvantaged groups should still apply for women-only scholarships.

Dr Callister says there are now more women than men enrolled in tertiary education right up to doctorate level.

And the figures show women are also graduating from these courses in greater numbers than men.

He says this wasn't the case several decades ago when many scholarships were established, so women-only scholarships were exempted from anti-discrimination laws because they helped a disadvantaged group.

But he says now it's hard to argue that women are disadvantaged in this area.

Dr Callister believes special endowment scholarships should continue to be awarded according to the wishes of their benefactors.

But those funded through current fundraising should not discriminate between the sexes.

The Human Rights Commission says it's considering the matter, but it's too early to discuss the merits of Dr Callister's request.