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The Independent Online
Give women time to catch up

Your report on the low number of women university professors contains an empty statement when it says: "Only 8 per cent of professors are female, though about half the places on university degree courses are filled by women." There is no logical connection between the number of women professors and current numbers of women students. As it takes about 15 years on average for male professors to reach that grade via a senior lectureship, the critical figure for purposes of argument is how many women graduates emerged from the universities 15 years ago, particularly in civil, chemical, mechanical, electrical and electronic engineering. The answer is, of course, hardly any, which is why technological universities, such as Imperial College and Strathclyde, have a very low proportion of women professors. No doubt in 15 years' time we should be heading towards 50 per cent women professors - not before.

Roger Wools

London

A child's view of big classes

I have lately been reading about Tony Blair reducing class sizes for children aged five to seven. I am a nine-year-old in a class of 38, and obviously my teacher cannot give us each the time we need.

If one of us brings a piece of homework that we have done on our own, he cannot look at it very closely. This happened to me recently when I brought in a piece of homework that I did about a canal walk.

If there hadn't been so many people in the class, my teacher could have talked about my work with me and then written something on it. Surely eight- and nine-year-olds need as much attention as five- to seven-year- olds. Why should my sister Emily (six years old) get all the luck?

Sophie McCabe

Nottingham

Foreign exchanges can work

There are three things that I feel I must put straight after reading Diana Hinds's article "An exchange of hostilities" (Education+, 5 June).

First, her statement: "I have yet to meet anyone who liked their foreign exchange."

I spent two weeks in Germany when I was 15, and I can honestly say the experience was thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile. It improved both my German and my confidence, and I had the time of my life meeting new people and visiting new places.

Second, according to Ms Hinds, "Teenagers are predisposed to dislike anyone outside their immediate circle." May I ask how teenagers make new friends in the first place? The answer is, of course, by speaking to people "outside their immediate circle".

Third, with the apparent "dwindling" of the popularity of foreign exchanges (again, something not based on my experience), teenagers, according to Ms Hinds, "may breathe a sigh of relief".

Wrong again: my two younger brothers can't wait to go on a German exchange with their swimming club; my sister is looking forward to participating in a second foreign exchange next year; and I am returning to Germany to stay with my exchange partner when I do work experience there this summer.

Kate Sharples (aged 17)

Redhill, Surrey

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