Skirt, Cap and Gown: How Fair are Universities to Young Women in Postgraduate Study?

Tara Brabazon


If democratisation in the tertiary sector is to be taken seriously, then we must carefully survey how previously disadvantaged groups are incorporated into higher education. In response to the words of my ex-postgraduate, I sent emailed questions to my six female doctoral students. Their testimony was then labelled ‘A’ through to ‘F’ to connote the seniority of their candidature. I then pleated their answers against DEST surveys of the Australian academy and theoretical/historical approaches to the university’s purpose. Via this approach, the attitudes of my students wedge the page, providing an intervention in the calm facade of DEST documents stressing science, training and vocationalism. We do not hear—let alone read—the experi- ences of postgraduates in sufficient depth. When presented in this way, different approaches to the postgraduate journey are revealed that are distinct from the imperatives of completion rates, supervisory training and professional competencies.


Women; PhD; DEST; democratisation; tertiary sector; postgraduate; female doctoral students; higher education

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