Universities warned their buildings may be too ‘white’ and ‘colonial’

Oxford University: Expert slams plans for ‘absurd’ changes

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University’s are being asked to reassess the appearance of the buildings on their campuses, in case they are stifling their ability to attract students from diverse backgrounds. Higher education consultancy Halpin has recommended that universities “reconsider the ‘look and feel’ of their buildings” as there are “many ways” in which a university’s “built environment… hinders inclusivity.”

“Buildings can be perceived as white or colonial spaces, which can hinder diverse recruitment”, Halpin says.

The group, which has worked with 65 UK higher education insitutitons including, University College at Oxford, Warwick University, Nottingham University and King’s College London, claims that universities are beginning the to consider the “impact” of the architecture of their estates “on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI)”.

Halpin went on to say that “perhaps now is the time” for higher education in the UK to place “greater focus” on the “intersection of EDI and estates strategies” to “ensure the sustainability of diverse recruitment.”

Conservative MP and member of the Education Select Committee Miriam Cates attacked the recommendation, telling Express.co.uk: “Of course universities can do whatever they want to their own buildings within planning laws. But these recommendations are very concerning because they are further evidence that many university leaders no longer see the purpose of higher education as the pursuit of truth, but as a tool for radical and elite political activism.

Ms Cates, who was elected in 2019, continued: “Universities should not be trying to rewrite history or try to make students feel comfortable. Instead they should be focused on providing rigorous academic challenge and an evidence based education to the next generation.”

The MP for Bassetlaw, Brendan Clarke-Smith echoed the sentiments expressed by Ms Cates. He told Express.co.uk: “People attend universities to learn and many people, especially those coming to our country to study, do so because they have an appreciation of the history and heritage which comes with the academic rigour offered by UK institutions. The University of Nottingham even built a campus replica in China because these factors are so popular.

“Daft suggestions like this, from those who clearly detest our country and our proud history, need to consigned to the scrap heap. Nobody with a genuine commitment to learning would be put off because they don’t like the look of a building.”

Halpin has been approached for comment.

The Department of Education refused to comment on the issues Halpin raised but did say it would “expect universities to follow existing legal duties such as those laid out by the 2010 Equality Act.”

Both the Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson and the National Union of Students declined to comment.

This comes after it emerged that the University of Kent has begun instructing its students to “avoid the term ‘Christian name’ – rather use ‘first name, given name, forename or personal name”.

Later in the guidance, the university reiterates its message in the Religion and Belief section, asking students to “avoid using Christian-centric terms, not only on grounds of respect but also for practical reasons”.

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According to the University of Kent, use of the word “surname is not unacceptable”, however “last name” must also be avoided as “it could be confusing to Asian groups who place their family name first”.

Head of public policy at Christian Concern, Tim Dieppe, told The Sun that the Canterbury-based institution was guilty of “displaying an irrational fear of using the term ‘Christian’ as if it is something to be ashamed of”.

He went on: “Christianity has provided the moral and spiritual foundation for Western civilisation. This move to police language is another symptom of the abandonment of Christianity.”

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