The parties settled out of court after the women sued the university for gender discrimination when three men with equivalent qualifications were selected to the programme in autumn 2008 ahead of the women. The university justified its policy at the time by arguing that it wished to create a more equal gender balance in a programme otherwise dominated by women.
Legal representative Clarence Crafoord with the Stockholm-based Centre for Justice (Centrum för rättvisa) welcomed the university’s decision to pay 35,000 kronor ($5,000) each in damages to his client Elin Sahlin and the other women who joined her in taking up the case.
“This is gratifying, since Elin Sahlin and the other women pushing the case have now been given redress. It is also logical considering the fact that several courts in other cases have reached the conclusion that precisely this kind of admissions process is a form of illegal discrimination,” said Crafoord in a statement.
The university said it would continue to work towards achieving greater gender equity on its courses.
In 2009 the university changed its admissions procedure. Since then, in cases where male and female applicants have the same basic qualifications a decision is taken based in the first instance on results achieved in the Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test (Högskoleprovet) and, secondly, on an interview. If neither of these measures succeed in separating the applicants, those from the underrepresented gender will be selected to the course.
“Nobody should have to feel that it’s impossible to gain admission to a course because of their gender; we have full respect for the course of action taken by Elin Sahlin and we’re glad an agreement has been reached,” said Per Eriksson, Vice-Chancellor of Lund University, in a statement.
In a similar case, the Svea Court of Appeal ruled in December that it was illegal for the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala to prioritize men for its veterinary education programme.