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Universities to defy government pressure to ditch race equality group


‘Line has been crossed’ say English universities, after request to drop scheme identifying barriers to ethnic minority students

Universities in England have launched a fightback against government attacks on their autonomy, telling ministers they “crossed a line” by pressurising them to abandon a scheme designed to improve equality on campus.

In what may be a turning point in the so-called “culture wars” over free speech, Universities UK (UUK) took on the education minister Michelle Donelan after she warned them to reconsider membership of a race equality charter, run by the charity Advance HE.

The scheme – which counts the majority of Russell Group universities among its members – aims to identify barriers to success for black, Asian and minority ethnic students. But in a letter to vice-chancellors this week, Donelan claimed that membership of the charter was “in tension” with universities’ duties to uphold free speech.

In its letter of response on Thursday, Universities UK said: “An important line has been crossed with the letter appearing to direct universities to take a specific approach” on equalities.

In a later statement, UUK confirmed that it intended to ignore Donelan’s request and remain affiliated with Advance HE.A spokesperson for UUK said: “Universities take their responsibilities to […]

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