Delft forced to revoke affirmative action policy prioritising women in aerospace engineering

The Faculty of Aerospace Engineering of TU Delft wants to admit more women students, but the Inspectorate of Education won’t allow this.

photo Eduard_Figueres / iStock

For the time being, the affirmative action policy isn’t going ahead, writes university magazine Delta. The faculty wanted to reserve 30 percent of seats on programmes for women to right the imbalance between male and female students.

But this is not the way to do it, the inspectorate thinks. The law says you can’t prioritise or exclude groups of students, not even if you’re doing it with good intentions. This would require a change in the law.

For next year, the programme is considering ‘experimenting’ with a quota. In experiments, education institutions have more freedom to deviate from the law, so perhaps this way approval can be obtained for the scheme.

The percentage of women is currently hovering around 20 percent: this academic year saw 331 men and 75 women starting the Bachelor’s programme. This already constitutes a change. In 2019, only 11 percent of first-years was female.


At selective programmes, diversity has been known to be a problem. Time and time again it turns out certain groups have a harder time passing through the sieve, for instance young people from a migration background or without higher-educated parents. Also, selection procedures are often badly substantiated.

The issue at Delft is somewhat reminiscent of Eindhoven University of Technology, which wanted to increase the number of female staff members using a drastic measure. In principle, its vacancies would only be open to women, unless no suitable candidates were found after six months. Following criticism, this policy was modified.

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