Oxford University has ended its women-only fellowship after administrators ruled it as breaching equality law.
The Joanna Randall-MacIver junior research fellowship was described as “discriminatory on the grounds of gender” by Oxford’s Council.
The fellowship was established in the 1930s for women studying fine arts, music or literature, and this is the first time the university has opened up any female-only fellowships to male applicants.
The decision raises concerns about other university’s female-only fellowships, including those run by the Cambridge's female-only college Newnham.
Employers are not permitted to advertise or recruit roles only open to one gender, according to the Employment Equality Act 2010.
However, there are exceptions to this to allow for “positive action” in favour of underrepresented groups within the relevant field of work.
The fellowship was set up archaeologist David Randall-MacIver and named after his wife Joanna when she died in 1932.
Mr Randall-MacIver ruled that the fellowship should only be awarded to female academics.
A spokesman for Oxford University said: “As a consequence of the [Employment Equality] Act, Oxford University has changed the terms of a number of historically-created trusts so they are no longer gender-specific. The Randall-MacIver Fellowship is the most recent example.
“The University is very much aware of the lack of women in academic roles at many levels and is working to end the imbalance as a priority.
“Several initiatives to promote equality, including strengthened recruitment processes and professional development programmes for female academics, are now well-established and beginning to show an impact at all levels, including professorial posts.”