Gender equality in higher education in low-income countries

Research into gender equality in higher education in low-income countries has shown some astonishing patterns. These include wide-scale sexual harassment and gender violence, barriers to access, and women staff being excluded from promotion and professional development. What are women’s experiences of gender discrimination in universities in a sample five low-income Commonwealth countries?

The economic value of higher education, particularly in low-income countries, is much debated. Higher education is viewed as critical for developing the skills, knowledge and expertise needed for economic and social development in low-income countries.

Higher education institutions are central to the globalised knowledge economy, the training of professionals, national wealth creation, international competitiveness and scientific and technological innovation. Similarly, research has emphasised the link between economic development and women’s and girls’ education. Countries with higher levels of girls’ enrolment in education tend to have higher levels of economic productivity.

A study by the UK Department for International Development (DfID) looks at how gender equality is promoted and obstructed in higher education institutions in the five low-income Commonwealth countries of Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Sri Lanka and South Africa. It focuses on three areas of intervention: access, curriculum transformation and staff development.

The study found that in all five countries, gender has had a large impact on the shaping of women’s academic and professional identity. It lists a wide range of findings, including the following:

Gender equality at higher education institutions needs to be dealt with at the level of national and international policy, at the level of the organisation, and at the level of the individual and social interactions. The report lists a large number of recommendations and policy implications, including:

‘Gender Equity in Commonwealth Higher Education: An Examination of Sustainable Interventions in Selected Commonwealth Universities’, Education Researching the Issues Series 65, Department for International Development, by Louise Morley, 2006 (forthcoming) Full document.
Further details about this research project on the DFID Research for Development website Full document.

Funded by: UK Department for International Development, Carnegie Corporation of New York and Association of Commonwealth Universities

id21 Research Highlight: 25 May 2007

Further Information:
Louise Morley
School of Education
University of Sussex
East Sussex
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)1273 876700
Fax: +44 (0)1273 877534
Contact the contributor: l.morley@sussex.ac.uk

School of Education, University of Sussex, UK

Other related links:
'How can universities challenge gender discrimination?'

Gender Equity in Commonwealth Higher Education – further working papers

'A safe place? Tackling sexual violence in the education sector'

'Violence against women: what do we want to teach our teachers?'

'Aiming high: how can women climb the academic and occupational ladders?'

'Progress to gender equality in education' id21 insights education 3

'Women and management in higher education: A good practice handbook' from UNESCO

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