Women's studies, which came to prominence in the wake of the 1960s feminist movement, is to vanish from British universities as an undergraduate degree this summer. Dwindling interest in the subject means that the final 12 students will graduate with a BA in women's studies from London's Metropolitan University in July.
Universities offering the course, devised as the second wave of the women's rights movement peaked, attracted students in their hundreds during the late 1980s and early 1990s, but the mood on campuses has changed. Students, it seems, no longer want to immerse themselves in the sisterhood's struggle for equality or the finer points of feminist history.
The disappearance of a course that women academics fought so long and hard to have taught in universities has divided opinion on what this means for feminism. Is it irrelevant in today's world or has the quest for equality hit the mainstream?
The course's critics argue that women's studies became its own worst enemy, remaining trapped in the feminist movement of the 1970s while women and society moved on.
"Feminist scholarship has become predictable, tiresome and dreary, and most young women avoid it like the plague," said Christina Hoff Sommers, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for public policy research in Washington and author of Who Stole Feminism? "British and American societies are no longer patriarchal and oppressive 'male hegemonies'. But most women's studies departments are predicated on the assumption that women in the West are under siege. What nonsense."
Others believe young women have shied away from studying feminist theory because they would rather opt for degrees that more obviously lead to jobs, especially since the introduction of tuition fees.
"[Taking] women's studies as a separate course may not feel as relevant to women who go to university to help them enter the job market," said Jean Edelstein, an author and journalist."As the feminist movement has become increasingly associated with extreme thoughts, women who may have previously been interested in women's studies may be deterred by these overtones."
Anyone ruing the degree's demise can take heart: many gender and equality issues are now dealt with by mainstream courses, from sociology and law to history and English. And many universities, including Oxford, still offer the course to postgraduates.
Mary Evans, visiting fellow at the Gender Institute at the London School of Economics, said: "This final closure does not signal the end of an era: feminist ideas and literature are as lively as ever, but the institutional framework in which they are taught has changed."
Ms Edelstein added: "Feminist critique should be studied by everyone. If integration into more mainstream courses means more people looking at gender theory and increases the number of people who are aware of the issues, then that is a good thing."
But Dr Irene Gedalof, who has led the London Metropolitan University women's studies course for the past 10 years, defended the discipline.
"The women's movement is less visible now and many of its gains are taken for granted, which fuels the perception there is no longer a need for women's studies. But while other disciplines now 'deal' with gender issues we still need a dedicated focus by academics. Despite the gains women have made, this is just as relevant in today's world," she said, blaming the course's downfall on universities' collective failure to promote the discipline.
Given that graduate courses in women's studies are thriving in many countries, such as India and Iran, the decision to stop the course here has surprised many.
Baroness Haleh Afshar, professor in politics and women's studies at the University of York, said: "In the past quarter of a century, women's studies scholars have been at the forefront of new and powerful work that has placed women at the centre but has also had echoes right across academia. In particular, it is important to note the pioneering work of Sue Lees, which began at the Metropolitan and still has a long way to go. I am desolate to see that the university has decided to close it."