U.K. Vet School Wrings Its Hands Over Dearth of White Guys

Illustration for article titled U.K. Vet School Wrings Its Hands Over Dearth of White Guys

The U.K.'s Royal Veterinary College has decided that, since not enough white men are enrolling in its program, it ought to recruit them more aggressively. To that end, the college has included white men among the underrepresented minority groups that it targets in publicity materials, which have been specially crafted to cater to the white-male gaze — photographs feature white men ambling between classes, smiling broadly at one another as they discuss the merits of horse suppositories (or whatever it is that veterinary students talk about). Recruitment events such as school visits and college "roadshows" now focus all their persuasive energies on boys.


The proactive recruitment of white dudes has grown out of concerns that white men are being increasingly left out of higher education. Enrollment at the Royal Veterinary College, for instance, is more than three quarters female (if the trend continues, some estimates have women comprising 90 percent of all veterinarians in the U.K.). For Stephen May, vice-principal for teaching at the college, the stark imbalance in the student population is troubling because, "just in terms of the professional community, having a good gender mix is healthy."

According to the Telegraph, women are quickly surpassing men across the higher ed spectrum. At universities in the U.K., 984,000 female undergrads are pursuing degrees, compared to 713,000 male undergrads. The gap is only expected to widen, which portends, according to Mary Curnock Cook, the chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, "fundamental shifts" in society, a warning many observers issue as if society wasn't in constant flux anyway.


In 2010, 60 percent of people who qualified to practice law in the U.K. and were subsequently admitted to the roll of solicitors were women. That same year, 56 percent of med school spots in the U.K. went to women, and estimates have female doctors outnumbering male doctors by 2017 (women, however, accounted for less than a third of hospital consultants). Those such as Cook who are concerned with the educational progress of white men in the U.K. employ such words as "worrying" when describing the growing gap between men and women, and though they wonder what about the educational system (a de-emphasis on physical curriculum? a dearth of male teachers?) seems to be holding boys back, some simpler explanations remain, namely, that women have had to work a little harder in recent years than men in order to achieve some semblance of equality in previously male-dominated arenas. Perhaps the trend of white men (who comprise 45 percent of the U.K.'s population) falling behind in school and in the workplace has a little more to do with the fact that, until fairly recently along the U.K.'s timeline, white men had the luxury of taking their hegemony for granted while still maintaining it.

May, however, suggests some simpler explanations for why, at least, women have so drastically outnumbered men at veterinary school:

It may be that in recent years, good quality male candidates have been attracted to more lucrative careers, such as banking. The decline in agriculture versus small animal practice could also be a factor.

Before nervous enrollment offices start announcing the demise of the white man, they might instead credit the surge of women into professional careers to a new era of gender parity, where women and men get to compete on a level plane for the same positions and either succeed or fail on their own merits.

White males now classed as a ‘minority group' at university [Telegraph]

Image via Andy Dean Photography/Shutterstock.

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The general trend towards female dominance in higher ed. is a class issue more than a race or sex one, as far as I can tell. There is no dearth of white middle-class men in the higher education system, that's certainly for sure. A working culture which increasingly prioritises white-collar traits such as office work, interpersonal skills and a university degree can be daunting to boys raised in a culture where the entire concept of 'men's work' is deeply identified with having a manual trade.

I would be interested to know why the university doesn't appear to have a problem with application rates for men of colour, though. This article specifies white men, when I would have thought, given the general trend towards female dominance in higher ed. and a culture which can give off the idea that caring for animals is 'girly', that the problem would affect male application rates as a whole.