It has been recently revealed that last summer, Oxford University added 15 minutes to their maths and computer science final exams in the hopes that the increased time limit would help female students to obtain higher results. This meant increasing the duration of exams from 90 minutes to 105.
Although this extension was for all students, it was stated that the decision was made in aid of women. This unique step was decided after the number of men who got first class honours was found to be double that of the number of women who obtained the same grade classification in the previous year.
The reasoning given for this decision was that women are more likely to be held back by time constraints. The decision for the change was seen by the Daily Telegraph who published that the reasoning was that “female candidates might be more likely to be adversely affected by time pressure.” The decision was met with backlash, as many felt women do not need, and should not be given, special treatment.
Oxford defends its decision despite being met with little success in its first year, as men continued to get more first class honours degrees than women. The change did however, result in more women overall getting a 2.1 grade, and fewer scoring a 2.2.
A spokesperson for the university stated that “women have performed better in our examinations. However, it is too soon to draw firm conclusions from this evidence.”
Speaking to the Telegraph, Antonia Sir, an undergraduate representative of Oxford Women in Computer Science, said: “I am uneasy about schemes to favour one gender over another. But I am happy when people see gaps between groups of people who should not reasonably have such gaps — such as between genders, races, or class — and take that as a starting point to think about the kinds of people they unintentionally leave behind.”
Some see it the decision as a misguided attempt at bridging the gap that has been dug between men and women. Statistics show that boys and girls generally both do well in maths when they first start school but as they grow up girls begin to do worse.
The university appears undeterred by the lact of positive results and plans to continue until a better and more conclusive pattern emerges.