The latest edition of one of the most important global university rankings – THE World University Rankings 2022 – revealed a positive trend in higher education. For the first time, the percentage of women among the leaders of top universities exceeded 20%.

Women are the leaders of exactly 43 of the top 200 ranked universities, or 21% of them. The upward trend is not large, but noticeable. In the last edition of the ranking we had 41 universities managed by women (20%), and just four years ago, in the 2018 edition, there were 34 such universities (17%). This clearly shows that the position of women in the university world is beginning to change.

Among the universities led by women is the winner of the ranking – Oxford University, led by Prof. Louise Richardson, took the the first place. Top-rank HEIs with women leaders include University of California, Berkeley (Prof. Carol Christ), Imperial College London (Prof. Alice Gast), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (Prof. Mary Sue Coleman) and McGill University (Prof. Suzanne Fortier).

Large percentages of female university leaders are recorded among institutions from the USA, Finland, New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland. Interestingly, only two countries have fewer female university leaders than last year (Germany and Switzerland), but this is a decrease of just one and two respectively.

More than one-fifth of the world’s top universities have a woman as their leader – a significant milestone for an academic world that, despite significant advances, is still a fairly traditional one. As recently as the 1960s, only two institutions in America’s most prestigious group of universities – the Ivy League – accepted women students in their ranks: Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania. Today, both of them are led by women: Prof. Martha Pollack and Prof. Amy Gutmann respectively, and both are among THE’s Top 25.

It’s hard to believe today, but the last of the Ivy League universities opened their doors to women in 1977 (Harvard) and 1981 (Columbia University) – that’s less than half a century ago!

Also in other countries women become rectors of universities, which, despite their long history, have never been managed by women. In August last year Prof. Linda Doyle was elected rector of Trinity College Dublin, becoming the first female leader of this university with a 429-year (!) history.

These changes are also observed in Poland. For example, Prof. Marta-Kosior Kazberuk became the first female rector of the Bialystok University of Technology in its 70-year history. It is worth mentioning that the university has experienced unprecedented situation among Polish technology universities, as the both candidates for the position of rector in the last election were women.

Prof. Marta Kosior-Kazberuk is one of only three women in the history of Poland who led a Polish technology university. The second is Prof. Danuta Zawadzka, PhD, rector of the Koszalin University of Technology for the current term. The first one was Prof. Maria Nowicka-Skowron, who led Częstochowa University of Technology in 2008-2012 and 2012-2016.

We had pleasure of having Rector Prof. Marta Kosior-Kazberuk as our guest at the LUMEN 2021 Conference, where she participated in the panel dedicated to the topic of internationalization:

Among the rectors of this term in 123 Polish universities there are 23 women – more than ever before. Comparing only 93 universities supervised by the Ministry of Education and Science, in the previous term women held the position of rectors in 9 of them and now in 15. We hope that this trend will continue!

On the occasion of Women’s Day, we wish all female university leaders continued success for themselves and the universities they lead!

On this special day, let’s recall all the women who are rectors this term:

  • dr hab. Elżbieta Aleksandrowicz, prof.AM, Grazyna and Kiejstut Bacewicz University of Music in Lodz
  • dr hab. Milenia Fiedler, Film School in Lodz
  • dr n. o zdr. Sonia Gabriela Grychtoł, Lesser Poland’s State University of Cavalry Captain Witold Pilecki in Oswiecim
  • dr hab. Mirosława Jarmołowicz, prof. AS, Academy of Art in Szczecin
  • Prof. dr hab. Bogumiła Kaniewska, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań
  • dr hab. Iwona Klonowska, Police Academy in Szczytno
  • dr hab. Małgorzata Kołpa, prof. PWSZ, University of Applied Sciences in Tarnow
  • dr hab. inż. Marta Kosior-Kazberuk, prof. PB, Bialystok University of Technology
  • Prof. dr hab. Hanna Kostrzewska, Ignacy Jan Paderewski Academy of Music in Poznań
  • dr hab. Barbara Marcinkowska, prof. APS, The Maria Grzegorzewska University
  • Prof. dr hab. inż. Celina Olszak, University of Economics in Katowice
  • dr n. med. Wioletta Palczewska, prof. KPSW, The Karkonosze University of Applied Sciences in Jelenia Góra
  • dr Katarzyna Rusak, State Higher Vocational School in Głogów
  • Prof. dr hab. Dorota Segda, AST National Academy of Theatre Arts
  • Prof. dr hab. Elżbieta Skorupska-Raczyńska, The Jacob of Paradies University
  • dr Elżbieta Stokowska-Zagdan, State College of Applied Sciences in Skierniewice
  • dr hab. Anna Szylar, prof. PWSZ, State Higher Vocational School of Prof. Stanisław Tarnowski in Tarnobrzeg
  • dr Marta Wiszniewska, State Higher Vocational School of Prof. Edward F. Szczepanik in Suwałki
  • Prof. dr hab. Elżbieta Wtorkowska, Feliks Nowowiejski Academy of Music in Bydgoszcz
  • Prof. dr hab. Anna Wypych–Gawrońska, Jan Dlugosz University in Czestochowa
  • dr hab. Danuta Zawadzka, prof. PK, Koszalin University of Technology
  • Prof. dr hab. Elżbieta Żądzińska, University of Lodz