In November 2020, the collective voice for Britain’s 140 universities, Universities UK (UUK), issued a set of radical recommendations in its report Tackling Racial Harassment in Higher Education, in response to alleged endemic racism in British universities. Far from offering solutions for reducing racial abuse and harassment, which should of course be stamped out wherever they are seen to occur, UUK’s recommendations to vice-chancellors will reshape the liberal and inclusive culture of universities and have far-reaching consequences for academic integrity and intellectual freedom.
Don’t Divide Us supporters in academia have produced a response, drawing attention to the potential problems of the UUK agenda. Our counter-report shows that:
- UUK’s guidance and the research on which it is based lack credibility, are not grounded in what the data show, and make basic methodological errors;
- UUK’s ideology-driven approach offers no concrete solutions to combatting racial abuse, instead promoting division by regressively racialising campus relationships;
- By promoting the increased perception and reporting of ‘microaggressions’, UUK encourages suspicion and resentment.
- Through its endorsement of a highly controversial theory about the collective guilt or victimhood of racially-defined groups, UUK may fail to preserve employees’ dignity, creating a hostile and degrading environment for staff and students alike on British campuses.
Our report, co-convened by Alka Sehgal-Cuthbert and Philip Hammond, shows that UK campuses are not only highly progressive and cohesive, with in many cases no or few incidents of racism reported, but that on nearly every metric, including staff and student numbers, degree attainment, and academic seniority, our campuses are a testament to equality of opportunity. UUK’s proposals risk halting or reversing the progress made by instilling division and doubt.
Early indications are that UK Vice Chancellors intend to adopt UUK’s recommendations. In doing so they will not only threaten basic standards of academic rigour, but will reinforce the increasingly illiberal and technocratic authoritarianism seen on UK campuses. Instead, DDU calls for a rigorous and evidence-led approach, not technocratic top-down solutions driven by empty moral grandstanding and divisive identity-based activism. Our universities have long been the most open, liberal and welcoming spaces in our society. Don’t Divide Us.
An important and incisive response by the Don’t Divide Us team to the UUK’s divisive and ideologically biased anti-racism plans. If we genuinely want to defeat racism and other bigotries, we must reject these critical theories and address social injustice with rigour and ethical consistency.
—Helen Pluckrose, co-author of Cynical Theories: How Universities Made Everything About Race, Gender and Identity, and How This Harms Everybody
The counter-report by Don’t Divide Us to the Universities UK report on ‘Tackling Racial Harassment in Higher Education’ is hugely welcome. They have rightly pointed out the ideologically-driven, methodologically dubious and questionable conclusions that underpin the UUK report. Universities, far from being steeped in racism, are in fact, some of the most open, welcoming and tolerant places to be of an ethnic minority background than any other place in society. This should be celebrated and built upon in a unifying and positive way, not undermined by divisive ideologies.
—Inaya Folarin Iman, director of The Equiano Project
I’ve been increasingly concerned with the output from UUK in recent weeks and months, uncertain whether they’re misguided or purposefully stoking division. This report from DDU is detailed, thorough, and methodologically sound. It’s always good to see solid criticism of questionable ideas.
—Calvin Robinson, political advisor and commentator
Examining disparities in education through a ‘race conscious approach’ or by considering just one factor, ethnicity, may create more divisions and lead to further racial divisions — not good for students or universities.
—Janella Ageigbe, headteacher of London primary school