Race tsar who ruled UK 'not institutionally racist' hits out as university withdraws honorary degree offer

Universities are stifling free speech says Dr Sewell, Chair of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities

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Race tsar Tony Sewell has lashed out at Nottingham University for withdrawing his honorary degree.

The University made a U-turn on their offer following the findings of a report Dr Sewell authored that declared Britain was “not institutionally racist”.

As Chair of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, Dr Sewell’s publication was based on the data from a major study he carried out in 2019 upon orders from the Prime Minister.

It concludes that while Britain was not yet a "post-racial society", it found no evidence that the UK was institutionally racist.

Nottingham University said the report caused “political controversy” among students, meaning they had to withdraw their offer of an honorary degree from the educational consultant.

Dr Sewell has branded the University cowards following its decision.

Dr Tony Sewell
Dr Tony Sewell
Nottingham University
Nottingham University

In an interview, he said universities are stifling free speech and that Nottingham University took the offer away as they were “subject to lobbying groups”.

Dr Sewell told the Daily Mail: "I have helped thousands of black children from poor backgrounds to get into universities.

"But [Nottingham University] said it would no longer be appropriate to award me the degree because they didn’t want to offend the students at an award ceremony.

“How can you offend students with a report which says the equalities watchdog should have more power, that stop and search should be improved and that we need to get more people from ethnic minorities into university?

"I thought the work of a university was to deal with complex issues? [But] universities in England are like the Soviet Union. There is no free speech."

Talking about his report, he added: “This is going to be life-changing for ethnic minorities and I just feel positive that we’ve been able to change the world."

The Government is expected to respond to the findings of the study later this week and it will be decided if they accept Dr Sewell’s recommendations.

A University of Nottingham spokesperson said: 'The university has strict criteria governing the award of honorary degrees, as these are conferred at our public graduation ceremonies.

"The criteria preclude us from awarding them to figures who become the subject of political controversy.

"Since making the decision to confer an honorary degree in late 2019, the University’s Honorary Degrees Committee noted that Dr Sewell became the subject of political controversy during 2021, and as such determined it would no longer be appropriate to award the degree.

"In withdrawing the offer, the University is categorically not making any judgement on Dr Sewell personally or expressing a view on his work. It is simply about ensuring that we apply the same criteria to all of those we consider for the accolade of an honorary degree from the University of Nottingham.

"We fully appreciate that was disappointing news and last December we offered Dr Sewell a sincere apology alongside an explanation for the decision. He remains a notable alumnus of the University, and it is deeply unfortunate that we have had to withdraw the offer."