Topeka — Higher education officials on Thursday approved an advanced degree unit in women's studies at Kansas University that they said will cost the state nothing extra.
“We are extending opportunities to our students without incurring any additional costs,” said Kansas Board of Regents Chairman Gary Sherrer.
The Women, Gender and Sexuality studies program will establish a master's degree and doctorate degree in the fall of 2011.
Ann Cudd, associate dean with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the program will be handled by existing faculty.
Regent Christine Downey-Schmidt said tough economic times have forced schools to look within to enhance programs without requiring more resources.
“It's a great example of the kind of innovation that we expect and always get,” she said.
Officials say demand for such studies has increased in academic, governmental and non-profit sectors that work on human rights, and in the private sector, as businesses look to improve the workforce climate.
An external review team met with faculty, students and staff in May and concluded there is demand for the program and KU is ready to take it on.
“That this faculty is highly qualified for implementing a doctoral program in women's, gender and sexuality studies is beyond doubt,” said the review team, which included leading professors from women's studies programs at the University of Michigan, University of Maryland and Emory University.
“We have no doubt that the time is right, the resources are adequate, and faculty and administrators' support for this program all promise a successful program,” the review team said.
“Women's studies is one of the most swiftly growing fields of inquiry to emerge in the past 40 years, generating one of the most significant and influential shifts in academic thought in recent memory,” the team said.
Among Big 12 universities, only Texas has a master's program in women and gender studies.
Despite the program enhancement at no additional cost, Sherrer predicted the regents will get flak from people who will claim it will cost the state more.
“This will be a wonderful opportunity for those who don't like higher education. Happy railing to all of you,” he said.