A women-only college at Cambridge University has changed its policy to allow applications from transgender students.
The Murray Edwards College, whose alumni include Sue Perkins, Claudia Winkelman and Tilda Swinton, said it is supportive of those who do not wish to define themselves as either female or male.
After the college’s council approved the changes to its entry requirements last week, applicants will no longer have to be female, but must simply identify as a woman at the time they submit their application.
In a statement designed to take account of updates to the Gender Recognition Act, the college said it aims to be an inclusive environment and “takes pride in our open and friendly community”.
“Many of us within the college have sympathy with the idea that gender is not binary and have concerns that narrow gender identities, and the expectations associated with them, are damaging both to individuals and to wider society,” the statement read.
“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.”
Announcing the change Dame Barbara Stocking, the president of Murray Edwards College, said the move took account of the “greater understanding of the complexities of gender” in present times.
“We are a college that is open to all outstanding young women and so it is absolutely right, both legally and within our set of values, for anyone who identifies as female to be able to apply to study with us,” she said.
“There is now a greater understanding of the complexities of gender. In order that we remain true to our mission of being open to all outstanding young women we recognise that it is right for anyone who identifies as female, regardless of their born gender, to be able to apply to study with us.”
But Germaine Greer, who has lectured at women-only Newnham College, Cambridge, branded the decision “ridiculous”, telling The Telegraph: “If Murray Edwards really don’t believe that gender is binary, then they really shouldn’t be a single-sex college.”
The college said the same criteria will apply for other students seeking to transfer to the college during their degree and for current students it will consider each case on an individual basis, “focusing on what is in the best interests of that individual”.