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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 June 2006, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
St Hilda's College to admit men
The last all-women college at Oxford University is to end more than a century of tradition by opening its doors to men.

The governing body of St Hilda's held a meeting on Wednesday at which it exceeded a two-thirds majority needed in two rounds of voting.

It means the college's charter and statutes will be changed to admit men as students and governors.

St Hilda's became the last all-women college at the university in 1994.

Our commitment to supporting women's careers remains a priority
Principal Lady English

The move follows proposals last year and a consultation period with students - which received mixed views.

Many of the 500 undergraduates, postgraduates and visiting students said they felt the college's quiet atmosphere of study and reflection would change if the college became co-educational.

Famous alumnae

Male students could now be admitted to St Hilda's, which was founded in 1893, as early as October 2007.

Its alumnae include poets Wendy Cope and Jenny Joseph, former MP and former Conservative party deputy chair Baroness Shephard of Northwold, Lib Dem MP for Richmond Park Susan Kramer and BBC journalist and news presenter Zeinab Badawi.

Principal Lady English said: "This is an important decision for St Hilda's, which opens up new and exciting opportunities, in line with the strategic agenda adopted a year ago.

"We are proud of our heritage as a women's college but plan to build on that with a new focus for the 21st Century, now that women can go to every college in Oxford.

Strengthening science

"We want to ensure that St Hilda's provides an excellent environment for women, but within a mixed community," she added.

"The ability to consider men as well as women for fellowship appointments will have immediate benefit by allowing us to strengthen our science teaching. However, our commitment to supporting women's careers remains a priority."

Somerville College, whose famous old girls include Margaret Thatcher, was the last Oxford University college to announce it would admit men when it changed its charter 12 years ago.

Other colleges at the university that have opened their doors to men include St Hugh's in 1985, St Anne's in 1979 and Lady Margaret Hall, also in 1979.


Thank you for your views and experiences of the change at St Hilda's College. The comments below reflect the balance of opinion we received:

As a former Hilda's student I'm disappointed by the decision, but not surprised, the practicalities of staying single sex are tough. By the way, anyone who thinks single sex educational institutions are archaic clearly hasn't been to one like Hilda's - it was brilliant!
Mairi Brookes, LA, USA

As a former member of St. Hilda's, I was delighted to hear the news that St. Hilda's will admit both men and women. I subsequently attended a mixed college in Cambridge and the social life was very much better. Congratulations Lady English!
Susan, New York, USA

I am a student at St Mary's College in Durham which went mixed this year. I was against the change at the time and I haven't changed my mind. To me the atmosphere of the college has totally changed and not for the better. I'm sad to hear that St Hilda's has taken this decision.
Ellie, Durham

As a current graduate at St Hilda's, I would just like to correct some of the comments made by others below. Firstly, this vote is *not* the first in ten years - the last one was held only in 2003, and the issue has not been allowed to rest since then. And the oppressive, depressive attitude which does not reflect any pride in who we are, has generally affected the fellowship, the current student body, and thus has also been perceived by prospective students, not helping us to attract applicants. All in all, we have let the college, its past, present and future members down, and I think the decision made today was a terrible cop out.
Anna, Oxford

In my opinion the college is a warm environment and women who excel at the college use the resources of both St Hilda´s and the whole university to the maximum. As a current second year undergraduate I feel that it has been an amazing experience. I am convinced that, as long as the ethos of the college does not change, Hilda´s will continue to produce first class female and male graduates as well as remaining the top college for English: seven firsts and five 2.1 results last finals I believe. Here´s to Hilda´s 2006!
Jennifer Newby, Oxford,

I graduated from St Hilda's last year and during my time there, my views swung from fervently pro-mixed when I first arrived, to pro-single-sex by the time I left. I think that reflects the positive experience that the college provided. I can relate to the sadness of some who feel the college they knew and loved will vanish. I can understand the need for better tutors and more accomplished interview candidates, but I have to say that the external tutors during my time at Hilda's were fantastic, and it did not matter that they didn't sit on the governing body. St. Hilda's as we know it: RIP.
Nicky, Oxford

Today is a day which will be remembered in years to come- the day St. Hilda's waved goodbye to the factor which made it unique in Oxford and loved so much by its alumnae. How sad. (St. Hilda's 2000-2004)
Arlene, Cambridge, UK

I attended Oxford University from 2000-2004 and my girlfriend attended St. Hilda's during that time. I am a member of an all male sports society at Oxford and although maintaining single sex institutions in today's society may be viewed as "archaic", there is something unique and traditional about them which is why I am disappointed that St Hilda's has changed.
Julian Barker-Danby, London, UK

We have lost a valuable part of the university: an option for women who were not (or whose families were not) comfortable with studying in a co-educational environment. On the other hand, it's also true that Hilda's suffered some special stigma in admissions. Something needed to be done, but now the reform is only half-done.
Nathan Hill, Oxford

I'm delighted that St Hilda's has gone mixed. I was determined to go to a mixed college in Cambridge despite pressure from my school to apply to a women's college. I hated being at an all-girls school and loved the mixed college I attended. It's a much more natural way to learn as well as to socialise. I'm now very proud to be a lecturer at UCL, the first university in this country to admit women on an equal basis. I hope New Hall and Newnham at Cambridge follow UCL's - and St Hilda's -lead.
Claire, Cambridge, England

I was involved in campaigning against the last vote in 2003. This time I was glad to see that the vote was both fair and transparent. I loved my time as a Hildabeast and have always been inclined to believe that too many of the college's problems were unfairly blamed on its being single sex. I think most people who've been would agree, there's never been a shortage of men in St Hilda's!
Hilda Cat, London

As a current undergraduate of Christ's College Cambridge, I am very pleased to hear that St Hilda's is to go mixed, and I hope that Newnham and New Hall will follow, as I know several women at both of these colleges that dislike the all-female atmospheres. Having come from a single-sex state school myself, I have become a lot more relaxed in entering a mixed environment... and later on, in the "real world" I'll have to deal with men - you can't avoid them forever!
Charlotte

As a graduate from Newnham it's sad to hear the news. Going to an all-woman college was a fantastic experience and one that I hope many more women in the future can enjoy. Having female role models who work in academia was priceless - with less than 5% of professors in this country being women, Newnham provided inspiration for the future. This shouldn't be seen as an outdated mode of education, it's still pioneering.
Katy, London

As a current postgraduate at St. Hilda's I find the governing body's decision deeply regrettable. While a women's college may seem anachronistic in the wider context of Higher Education across the UK, it has a necessary and vital part to play within Oxford University. Female lecturers and professors are hugely outnumbered by their male counterparts within the university and St. Hilda's worked both as a small counterbalance to this and, more importantly, as a reminder that there is still more to be done in truly winning equality for women's education.
Alex da Costa, Oxford

I'm at Newnham College, Cambridge, one of three that is still single sexed. I know that I would miss the atmosphere I have at college if we went co-ed. I work in science so I am surrounded by men all day and am often the only woman so I really appreciate going home to a house full of girls where I don't have to constantly compete with my peers just because of my gender. St Hilda's will be missed.
Hetal Kiran Patel, Cambridge

As a graduate of a women's college in the United States, I am saddened to hear that St. Hilda's has decided to go co-ed. I feel that women's colleges are still relevant to the 21st century and will continue to have a place in education until women achieve full equality in society. I attribute my years at a women's college to fostering a sense of confidence that I see lacking in so many women on both sides of the pond.
Melissa M Bellitto, London, UK

I'm not sure it will make much difference, to be honest. I was an undergrad at Magdalen down the road (1997-2001) and spent a large proportion of my time in Oxford at St Hilda's, as did a good few other fellow male students!
Alex Metcalfe, London

I was an undergraduate at St. Hilda's from 1983 - 1986 and feel it is a great shame that it is going mixed. I studied Physics and it was great having other female physicists to interact with at St. Hilda's. For most of my female friends at mixed colleges they were the only female and therefore somewhat isolated in a male dominated subject.
Melanie Tribble, Cambridge, England

Colleges that refuse entry to people solely on the basis of their sex should have no place in our society. I very much hope the three colleges at Cambridge who so wholeheartedly practice such obvious discrimination also change their policies. Otherwise they should be forced to close their doors to women as well as men.
James, Cambridge

As an alumna of the college, I was extremely upset to hear the news. There is much that needs to be done to address the inequality within the University and St Hilda's went towards addressing that imbalance. St Hilda's was a wonderful college offering fantastic support to women, at all levels, both in the college and within the university. Its charm was partly due to the fact it was at the forefront of women's education. Hilda's girls have achieved high positions across university societies and organisations. This is testament to the fact Hilda's produced intelligent women, confident of their own abilities. The onus is now on the University to address inequality and prejudice within the university and departments.
Sarah Easton, Cambridge

I am an undergraduate at St Hilda's and I am really pleased that we are finally going mixed. I do not think there is any particularly unique atmosphere, nor do I think tradition is any reason to stay single-sex: Traditionally women were not allowed into Oxford at all. A very small minority of students are making it seem like more people want it to stay single sex than not, which is not true. The objectors are merely louder and making an uncomfortable atmosphere for those that do support the news to have their say.
Emma, Oxford

I think that although I initially had my misgivings about going to an all-girls college (I did an open application), the atmosphere is wonderful - being able to walk around in PJ's to a film fest in another building, etc. I don't particularly mind it going mixed, just regret to be seeing the end of a part of the college's history.
Freya Freestone, Oxford

St Mary's in Durham 'went mixed' last October after 103 years as an all female college. It was the last single sex college at Durham, and at the time I was very disappointed that it would be changing. As Mary's approaches the end of the Academic year I am happy to find that I was completely wrong and I really don't notice a difference with the atmosphere, cleanliness, noise etc. I'm sure Hilda's will find the change equally sucessful!
Caroline Wrixon, Durham, England

It is a shame this has happened. Almost all of the Cambridge colleges are male dominated and as a lesbian I found that New Hall in Cambridge was the perfect place for me to go. Such an all female environment is not only a great place to meet people but also a very encouraging and supportive arena for me to develop academically.
Samantha Gunning, Cambridge, England

As a graduate of St Hilda's I have mixed feelings about this news. During my time at Oxford it was clear that women were desperately under-represented at a number of the larger colleges. Assuming that little has changed in this respect over the past 10 years or so there must be a concern that the admission of men will further exacerbate this issue. Having said this, given that single sex status has an impact on the college's ability to appoint quality staff, I think the right decision has been taken.
Sarah, London

I graduated from St. Hilda's last year and am really pleased to hear the news. I don't think it will change the friendly atmosphere of the college but it does mean the college will be able to encourage good male tutors to stay now that there is the potential for them to be appointed as fellows.
Sarah, Oxford, England

As a current undergraduate at St Hilda's, I would like to express the sadness I feel in relation to the recent decision to admit men. St Hilda's College, I feel, is a truly special place which a unique atmosphere which I feel will not be upheld with the admission of men. Although I understand the positive reasons for the change, I do not support it, but am glad that the governing body are taking steps to attempt to provide a place in which students who wish to remain in single sex education can live, however the abolishment of our single sex policy will cause much upset amongst many current students and alumni.
Jemma Snell, Oxford

I went to St Hilda's against my wishes thinking that it was an anachronistic institution. I soon realized that it was the University rather than the college that was truly anachronistic. Oxford has an extremely strong male bias and there were many occasions when I found myself in large groups of people where I was the only female. St Hilda's played a role in levelling the imbalance that can be felt in many areas of the university and I feel that the college should not have made this move until the university in the broadest sense had become a more inclusive place.
Mary Strong, Cambridge

While some of St Hilda's current charm may be lost as a result of this change, tradition alone shouldn't keep the college single sex. It's good to see this move, I hope Newnham and New Hall will follow.
Jennifer Crossley, Cambridge, England

As a current undergraduate, I feel that it is a travesty that St Hilda's intends to go mixed in the future. For many girls this college is the only opportunity for higher education. The vote taken today will prevent many girls in the future going to university. We have all chosen to come to an all female environment; nobody was forced to accept a place here.
Vanessa, Oxford, England

My time at Hilda's was wonderful, and its single-sex status was part of its charm. I feel as if the college that I went to no longer exists. (St. Hilda's 2000-2003)
Sophia Woodley, Oxford, UK

Ultimately it will drive up standards at Hilda's which always languished at the bottom of the Norrington Table. During my time there I came across far more Hilda girls who hated it than loved it, so it should make them happier now!
Alex Langridge, New York, US

As a current undergraduate of Newnham College, one of three remaining all-women colleges in Cambridge, I am sad to hear of the changes at St Hilda's. I can sympathise with their position however: this is the second time they have voted on the issue, and such changes are not put through lightly. There is no evidence that introducing men would actually improve the results of the female students but add-in better results from men. I am also sad that the social side of things has changed: many students at Newnham come from religious backgrounds which mean they prefer to live slightly apart from men, and this is human right which should be respected. But that's ok - apply to Newnham instead!
Elizabeth Lawrenson, Cambridge, England

As a current student at St Hilda's I am deeply saddened by the decision. It feels as though the College has been forced to submit to great pressure laid upon us by the rest of the University. How come Cambridge's three all-female colleges can flourish whilst Oxford's one apparently can't? I did not apply to Hilda's but now I am here I love it. It is unique and special because of its single sex status; this should be celebrated rather than surrendered.
Emily, Oxford

It's a fine college which has achieved great academic success recently. I'm sure it will continue to flourish under the new order.
Harriet Vane, Oxford

A great pity. Whilst I was dubious about attending an all-girls college, I and many others find it a tremendously enriching environment, free of some tensions that are experienced in mixed colleges. There's also the huge advantage that we all get out of college to meet lots of other people - it's the least insular college in Oxford.
Miranda, Oxford

As a current undergraduate of St. Hilda's, I am extremely relieved at this decision. I probably won't be here to see the change, but I am glad that my college has decided to move forward and accept progress anyhow.
Ana, Oxford

I and many others only ended up at St Hilda's since our first choice rejected us during the interview process - no longer can they use it as a convenient place to divert female students who would much rather go to a mixed college.
Jane Smithy, Oxford

As a graduate student, I am constantly dealing with issues of access and equity in education. With the role of women continually underrepresented in higher education, the decision of St Hilda's to admit men is a blow to access of women and the purported commitment of the college to women in education. With all other colleges at the University admitting men and seeking female applicants, I cannot truly believe that St Hilda's is meeting a need in the University or has previously been dashing the hopes of the prospective male Oxford applicant through their position.
Ann Benton, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

It is a sad day for Hildabeasts everywhere... But I bet there will be fewer men around though! St Hilda's 1996-2000
Clare Alexander, St Albans

As a former member of St Hilda's College I am very disappointed that it will not be remaining single sex. Being an all-women college was part of its charm and character and it is sad that this unique quality will now be lost forever.
Pippa Ireland, London, UK

I was one of the first men to go to Somerville College in 1994 - the penultimate women's college in Oxford to go co-ed. The reasons given then were better academic results. From what I can tell results did improve (in time), though my antecedents have commented that some of the unique spirit of the place has gone. If the first men at St Hilda's have half the fun we did, they will be lucky indeed. Good luck to them.
Tim, London

I think it is a shame that there is now no women's only college in Oxford, I myself am a Cambridge graduate, from New Hall, it wasn't my choice to go there, but in the end I loved it. I'll be very sad if New Hall and Newnham go the same way.
Anne Rogers, Cambridge

About time too. Were it the other way round and an all-male college I'm sure they would have come under greater pressure to reform. Equality goes both ways. Keeping students apart on gender grounds is archaic. After all, will they not have to work and live with people of the opposite sex in the wider world?
Alisdair Matheson, Glasgow, Scotland




SEE ALSO:
Oxford college to stay single-sex
03 Dec 03 |  Oxfordshire


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