Feminization Thesis: Gender and Higher Education

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In contemporary society, women have made significant gains in terms of their participation rate as undergraduate students worldwide, to the extent to which a feminization of higher education thesis has been put forward. Claims have arisen that women are “taking over” higher education, not only in terms of student numbers, but also the culture of universities (Leathwood and Read 2009).

But to what extent has an increase in the number of women in higher education led to a reconceptualization of gender and the university as a “space” in which women are no longer “out of place” (Aiston 2006)? There are many indicators to suggest otherwise, for example, prevailing sexism, “laddism” and a culture of harassment that has been identified as an aspect of university life for women undergraduates in the UK and the USA (NUS 2013). In Mainland China, the dominant discourse of graduate women as a “third sex” (men, women, women with PhDs) represents highly educated women as troublesome transgressives who refuse, or who will be unable, to take their place in traditional family hierarchies (Aiston in press).

This entry aims to interrogate the feminization thesis in the context of contemporary research in the field of gender and higher education. As such the entry will draw on critical frameworks, such as feminism, to discuss the numerous social justice challenges that endure with respect to gender and higher education in the twenty-first century.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory
EditorsMichael A. Peters
PublisherSpringer Singapore
ISBN (Electronic)9789812875327
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2016


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