As a result of protests it looks like the body Universities UK, comprising the heads of British universities, has reversed its decision to allow British universities to host events in which the audiences are separated by gender if such a request is made on the basis of ‘genuinely held’ religious beliefs of the speaker.
The body that represents Britain’s universities has withdrawn guidance on the gender segregation of audiences in lectures and debates after an intervention from David Cameron.
Universities UK (UUK) said on Friday that the controversial policy which allowed the voluntary separation of men and women at events such as lectures on Islam by visiting speakers was being dropped pending a review.
The body had sought guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which said that, while the law allows segregation by gender in premises being used for religious purposes, it was not permissible in an academic meeting or in a lecture open to the public.
The U-turn is an embarrassment for UUK, which has attempted to fight off criticisms over the policy for several days. The body had insisted that it had sought legal advice from a senior QC, who said that gender segregation should be allowed if requested by the lecturer and students.
What the UUK did was to withdraw the controversial ‘case study’ (see here for more) that led to their decision. So it looks like my cunning plan on how to subvert the policy by mocking it using cross-dressing will not be necessary after all, though there is no reason why it could not be adopted anywhere else someone imposes a similar separation.