Magazine article Times Higher Education


Magazine article Times Higher Education


Article excerpt

Later this year Jackie Ashley will become the eighth president of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, the only women's university college in Europe for students aged 21 and over. She has been a political journalist and commentator for ITN, Channel 4 News, the BBC, the New Statesman and The Guardian

Where and when were you born?

I was born in University College Hospital in 1954. My mother had been brought up in Liverpool and my father in Widnes, a small industrial town outside Liverpool. They met and married at Cambridge and then moved to London.

How has this shaped you?

I was always very aware of the power of education to change lives. My father left school at 14 and worked as a labourer for 12 years before winning a scholarship to Ruskin College Oxford and then to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. That opportunity transformed his life chances.

Presiding over a Cambridge college seems quite a jump from journalism. What drew you to the position?

As a journalist you report and comment but it can be frustrating not being able to really make a difference. As head of Lucy Cavendish I hope to be able to improve and develop some aspects of this excellent college.

Do you have any specific plans for your presidency?

Lots of fundraising ideas, a packed programme of guest speakers, brilliant pastoral care for students and more sport.

Lucy Cavendish is one of three all-female university colleges in the UK. A Times Higher Education contributor once called such colleges a 'vital haven'. What's your view on them?

They are indeed a vital haven for some women, particularly those who are studying the more traditionally "male" subjects such as engineering. People from different faiths and religions also value single-sex colleges. But like everything, it's an issue that is constantly being reviewed and I would be surprised if there were no discussion about it once I join.

The college champions the education of women and you are a campaigner for better rights for women. How close are we to equality?

We are still a long way from equality in terms of the pay gap and also the number of women in top roles, whether that's in politics, the law, business or academia. Quite often it's an issue of confidence: women need to know that they are every bit as good as the men.

Is a Cambridge college the best place from which to campaign for equality?

It certainly is, because graduates from Oxbridge still dominate in the professions and in government. …

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