MPs have demanded that the Education Secretary suspend taxpayer funding of Advance HE and launch an investigation as they warn the organisation is limiting free speech on campus.
Over a dozen Tories have written to Gavin Williamson in the wake of The Telegraph’s revelations about Advance HE and their Race Equality Charter (REC).
They say the organisation’s practises – such as rewarding universities for “decolonising” their curriculum and for rolling out unconscious bias training – further an agenda which “compromises academic freedom and free speech”.
The letter, which is signed by 15 members of the Common Sense Group of Conservative MPs, points out that curbing free speech on campus “directly contradicts Government policy”.
It goes on to claim that Advance HE is “promoting highly contentious racial theories in our higher education institutions”.
The letter is signed by 15 Tory MPs including former ministers Sir John Hayes and Sir Edward Leigh.
The Telegraph revealed earlier this week that Advance HE – which receives millions of pounds in taxpayer funding – has published extensive resources on how universities can tackle racism on campus.
This includes advice on how to stamp out racial “micro-aggressions” such as “avoiding eye-contact” with someone from an ethnic minority group or interrupting someone during a meeting.
Other examples include cutting in front of someone in a queue or “invading” someone’s personal space.
Advance HE has received over £11 million of taxpayer funding since 2016, according to Companies House records. It has also been paid over £27 million from membership fees paid to it by universities and colleges, which are themselves partly funded by the taxpayer.
The MPs say they believe the funding of Advance HE appears to be a "significant waste of public money".
They point out that the Government commissioned Sewell Report "highlighted that practices of the kind promoted by Advance HE are often counterproductive to societal harmony, leading to division and strife".
The letter concludes: "In light of this evidence – completely at odds with this Government’s policy and its advisors’ conclusions – we request that you urgently investigate the role and work of Advance HE and suspend its funding until an investigation is complete."
Over 60 of the country’s leading higher education institutions – including Oxford, Cambridge and the majority of members of the prestigious Russell Group – have signed up to the REC.
Advance HE runs training for universities on how to “decolonise” their identity, curriculum and the entire institution.
Another manual advises institutions on how to tackle white privilege and identifies the concept of “white sanction” where “white people are the gamekeepers who use their privilege to ‘help’ people of colour”.
Academics have previously warned that the REC is shaping a culture on campus that is “inimical” to academic freedom.
Alison Johns, chief executive of Advance HE, said the REC helps universities to close the gap in outcomes between black and white students, adding: “It’s a framework through which each participating institution can work to identify and self-reflect on its own institutional and cultural barriers standing in the way of BAME staff and students.
“Created with the higher education sector in 2015, the REC is a well-established framework through which institutions can develop their own plans to create inclusive teaching and research environments and tackle racism. We support and applaud their efforts to do so.”