The University of Sydney has released the details of a new scholarship for veterinary medicine students which gives “preference” to male students. The scholarship is worth $27,000 over four years.
Students’ Representative Council women’s officers Imogen Grant and Katie Thorburn claim a University representative justified the scholarship on the basis that other scholarships prioritise Indigenous students. Grant said that any such equivalence was inappropriate.
The University did not respond specifically to the women’s officers’ allegation. Instead, a spokesperson said the scholarship was consistent with the University’s efforts to achieve gender equality.
“The scholarship does not exclude females and is open to all students regardless of gender studying veterinary science at the University…
The inclusion of males as one of a number of preferences by the donor is to address the current under-representation of males in the student cohort. As such it is consistent with the University’s support of actions to address and encourage diversity and under-representation in certain disciplines or professions.”
“Scholarships exist to alleviate structural barriers to receiving an education”, Grant said. “Giving preference to male applicants reinforces the gender divide.”
A veterinary science student at USyd told Honi, “There is no evidence that men who enter the programme are discouraged to do so because of social, political or economic barriers … the barriers that prevent women from entering all other areas of academia are not the same for men [in veterinary science].”
She further suggested that the barriers that discourage women from entering other areas in STEM still exist in veterinary science.
Over 70 per cent of veterinary graduates are female according to industry data, and the University expects 90 per cent of students in this year’s intake for the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine to be women.
However, the gender pay gap, which consistently results in men being paid more than women, still exists in the veterinary industry.
The American Veterinary Medical Association found in 2011 that private practice female veterinarians had a median income of $88,000 compared to male veterinarians’ $112,000 while the difference in public and corporate practice was $24,000 in men’s favour. This wage disparity is acknowledged by USyd’s veterinary faculty.
Like many scholarships, the Professor Marsh Edwards AO Scholarship prioritises students whose own lives resemble that of the benefactor. Professor Edwards practised as a rural large animal vet. The funding for the scholarship was donated by Professor Edwards’ widow Marcia on that basis.
A University spokesperson noted that as the number of women in veterinary science has increased over the last five years, there has been a concurrent “trend away from rural practice”.
Large animal vets, who treat livestock, are in short supply throughout some areas of rural Australia. According to the Australian Veterinary Association, the primary cause of the shortage is retention rates rather than the supply of graduates.
The University of Sydney Women’s Collective has called on the University to remove the preference for “male” applicants from the scholarship to “send a clear message to all students that sexism and discrimination on campus is unacceptable”.