Newnham is one of three all-women colleges at the UniversityAnna Menin

Transgender and transitioning students looking to apply to Cambridge may find their admissions process eased as Cambridge’s three remaining all-women colleges are all set to re-examine, or have already changed, their admissions policies regarding transgender students.

On Tuesday, Varsity reported that Murray Edwards College will no longer require transgender women to have their gender legally recognised to apply to the college. The policy change was presented in a formal statement, approved by the University Council, and emphasised: “At the admissions level, we will consider any student who, at the point of application, identifies as female and, where they have been identified as male at birth, has taken steps to live in the female gender (or has been legally recognised as female via the Gender Recognition Act (2004)).”

The new policy will also immediately apply to current transgender students who wish to transfer from another college during their time at the University.

It has since been revealed that the other two all-women colleges in Cambridge, Lucy Cavendish and Newnham, have also been involved in discussions regarding a change in their respective admissions policies.

Currently, both Lucy Cavendish and Newnham only allow students who are legally certified as female to apply, excluding prospective students who identify as women, but are not legally recognised as so. However, The Telegraph reported that the council of Lucy Cavendish discussed a review of their admissions policy on Wednesday evening.

Speaking to Varsity, Murray Edwards College Student Union’s Women’s Affairs Officer Kate Litman emphasised that the requirement of legal proof of gender under the Gender Recognition Act excludes a large number of potential applicants from pursuing an application to study at the college.

“The Gender Recognition Act requires individuals to be 18 before their gender is legally recognised. This requirement cuts out a huge portion of applicants who are 17 at the time they apply to university.

“The stipulation that individuals must have ‘lived in the acquired gender for two years’ further excludes younger transgender women who are unlikely to be judged in the eyes of the Gender Recognition Panel to have met these requirements.”

Newnham’s ‘Transgender Policy Statement’, released in 2015, states that the college accept “any individual who had transitioned to female, and any individual who is legally recognized as female under the Gender Recognition Act”. While it acknowledges that “many in the College would have sympathy with the idea that gender is not binary” the policy is grounded upon the notion that “UK law presently recognises only two genders, male and female”.

Speaking to Varsity, Newnham JCR President Rachel Mander and Women’s Officer Ruby Kwong confirmed that Kwong “has been sitting on a working group for the admission of trans women into women’s colleges, alongside the women’s officers at other women’s colleges, the CUSU disabled students’ officer and the CUSU women’s officer”.


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They did note, however, that the JCR Committee have not met since Murray Edwards announced their policy change, and are yet to pass a motion on the subject of transgender admissions.

They continued, “However, as a JCR we understand women’s colleges to, in part, be places for students who are marginalised by their gender, and as such would welcome any policies which further this aim. Under this understanding, we welcome the policy change at Murray Edwards.”

The President of Lucy Cavendish College’s Student Union told Varsity that the Union “has indeed been approached by the CUSU campaign and we are preparing to be involved.”

She continued, “This is an important issue that challenges the college to assert its foundational values: to provide a welcoming space that enables exceptional women from all walks of life to achieve academic excellence. It is the Student Union committee’s belief that our college is, and should be, fundamentally progressive. The committee fully supports the college’s recent decision to review its admissions policies. We appreciate that policy changes require much thought and reflection, including our whole student body, and we will work to put ourselves at the center of that process in college.”

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