Sussex gender experts to tackle sexism at a London university

Dr Alison Phipps

Dr Elizabeth McDonnell

Experts on gender at the University of Sussex have been asked to review the organisational culture at a London university, following accusations of sexism at the institution.

Imperial College, one of the country’s top universities, has commissioned Sussex’s Dr Alison Phipps and Dr Elizabeth McDonnell to produce a report on its approach to gender equality, in the wake of alleged sexist incidents at a recent women’s rugby match.  

Female athletes raised concerns about sexist behaviour among elements of the crowd as well as poor organisation at the match between the Imperial College and Imperial Medicals women’s rugby teams.

Drs Phipps and McDonnell will explore multiple of aspects institutional culture at the College and how they relate to gender equality through staff and student interviews and focus groups, observation and documentary analysis. 

This will lead to range of recommendations that can develop and support gender equality throughout the organisation.

Dr Phipps is director of the University of Sussex’s Centre for Gender Studies and is one of the country’s leading academics on the topic of gender equality in higher education.

She has previously conducted extensive work with the National Union of Students (NUS) into 'lad cultures' in higher education and the links to sexual harassment and violence.

Dr Phipps says: “Sexism and gender inequality is a problem throughout the higher education sector, and many institutions look for an easy way to say that they are dealing with this problem, then swiftly move on. Imperial College have taken a very brave and forward-thinking approach in asking us to do this research.

“There are lots of quick fixes out there. With this work we can point to what a serious piece of research should look like. I believe people will sit up and take note.”

The long term aspiration is for lessons learned from the Imperial College review to serve as a template for similar institutions and faculties in the UK – and ultimately the entire sector.

Much of the data collection will be conducted by Dr McDonnell, the project’s full time Research Fellow.

“We want this to be collaborative, helpful and constructive,” Dr McDonnell says. “We’re not here as the ‘gender police,’ to decree bad deeds and good deeds, it’s about trying to understand things through an institutional framework.”

The Centre for Gender Studies delivers interdisciplinary teaching and research and draws together more than 100 PhD students studying gender-related topics.

Notes for editors

University of Sussex Press Office: Ben Steele and Jacqui Bealing, 01273 678888, Follow us on Twitter at @SussexUniPress.



Posted on behalf of: Centre for Gender Studies
Last updated: Wednesday, 21 October 2015