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Exhibition marks 150 years since women first studied at Cambridge University

The exhibition opens next month at the University library and runs until March next year Photo: ITV Anglia

It's been 150 years since women were first allowed to study at Cambridge University. Female undergraduates currently make up about half of the annual intake and an exhibition is being staged to mark the anniversary.

‘The Rising Tide, Women at Cambridge’ looks at the experiences of women who fought for equal educational rights, recognition and inclusion in university activities.

Dr Lucy Delap, exhibition co-curator said: “Though Girton College was established especially to give women the opportunity to study at the university, there were still many barriers that women faced."

Women also had to fight for parity in areas like sports such as tennis and rowing Credit: ITV Anglia

The first female students were required to ask permission to attend lectures, were not allowed to take exams without special permission, and usually had to be accompanied by chaperones in public until after the First World War.

It was still not until 1948 that Cambridge began to offer degrees to women - the last of the big institutions in the UK to do so. In 1987, a quota limiting the number of female undergraduates was officially dropped.

But despite improvements within the institution, Dr Lucy Delap says equality is still an ongoing battle. She said: “Actually, women who are here today are still very concerned about things like the universities gender pay gap, which is nearly 20%.

"They are still very concerned that there aren’t really the same number of women in the highest positions of authority in the university at the professor level.”

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