Five universities have women at the helm

More women occupying leadership positions in Dutch academia

Annetje Ottow
Annetje Ottow used to be vice-president in Utrecht and now she is the president of Leiden University. Photo: DUB

The universities of Oxford, Harvard and Cambridge, as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), all have a female president. That makes four of the five best universities in the world, according to the ranking published by Times Higher Education.

Ahead of International Women’s Day, the British magazine published an overview showing that 48 of the 200 best universities in the world are run by a female president or vice-chancellor, up from 43 last year. Over the last five years, the number of women occupying these positions has almost doubled.

Second worldwide
France has the highest percentage of elite universities run by women: three of the five French universities that made it to the top 200 have a woman at the helm. This is true for half the Dutch universities in the ranking, earning the Netherlands the second spot. The third place is shared by the UK and the US, where just over a quarter of the top-ranking institutions are run by women.

Unequal distribution
Not all countries in the ranking are performing so well in terms of gender equality, though. Of the 27 countries with universities in the top 200, 12 have no female presidents at all.

This year’s Times Higher Education world ranking includes ten Dutch universities, of which five are presided by a woman:  Wageningen University & Research (Sjoukje Heimovaara); the University of Amsterdam (Geert ten Dam); Leiden University (Annetje Ottow); Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (Mirjam van Praag); and Maastricht University (Rianne Letschert).

The other Dutch universities in the top 200 do not have a female president and are therefore not included in the count, even if they have a female rector or vice-president. This is the case for Utrecht University, Delft University of Technology, Groningen University, Erasmus University Rotterdam and Radboud University Nijmegen. Eindhoven University of Technology, Tilburg University and the University of Twente, which were not included in the top 200, are all led by male presidents.