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Last single-sex undergraduate Oxford institution to admit women

Professor Werner Jeanrond, Master of St Benet's Hall (Photo: St Benet's Hall)

St Benet’s Hall has become a co-educational institution, ending single-sex education at Oxford University, reports the BBC.

The hall, which has links to the Benedictine religious order, was the university’s last all-male academic institution.

A vote by trustees is expected to formally decide to admit female undergraduate students one week after the appointment of the university’s first female vice-chancellor, Louise Richardson, and 95 years after women were first allowed to become full members of the university.

It has been almost 10 years since the last all-female college began admitting male students. Since the 1970s, previously all-male colleges have been slowly moving towards a co-educational model and the master of St Benet’s Hall, Werner Jeanrond, says this decision is “self-evident”.

Until now the hall has faced practical difficulties of finding extra accommodation for housing female students, rather than issues of principle.

Prof Jeanrond continued: “It depends on how you view tradition. Is it something that you contribute to or something that is an exhibit in a museum?”

When the hall begins admitting women in the autumn, Prof Jeanrond is prepared to see a complete shift in student demographics if the strongest applicants are women.

Oxford University regularly admits more men than women at undergraduate and graduate level, making it an anomaly among institutes of higher education, which on the whole admitted 57,800 more women than men last year.

“Tradition can be shockingly ambiguous,” said Prof Jeanrond. “Tradition is something you have to wrestle with… and if people claim to own it, beware.”