Written by Student Rights on 13 December 2013 at 3pm

Sky News: Cameron: No To University Segregation

13th December 2013

David Cameron believes universities should not allow the segregation of men and women, Downing Street says.

University leaders have sparked angry protests after issuing guidance endorsing the separation of women and men in debates and lectures featuring Islamic speakers.

They claim that if women were asked to sit at the back it would be discriminatory but that a voluntary arrangement of men on one side and women on the other would be acceptable.

Downing Street's intervention in the row follows a number of angry responses by politicians to the move, including from Education Secretary Michael Gove who said the guidance was "wrong and harmful" and should be withdrawn immediately.

He said that speakers who demanded segregation should not be encouraged to speak at the country's universities.

Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna said he was "horrified" by the university leaders' position on the issue.

However, the UUK chief executive Nicola Dandridge has been robustly defending the guidance, insisting it is not enforced segregation but voluntary segregation and that separating men and women was not "alien to our culture".

She said: "What we are talking about in practice is voluntary segregation and that's what happens in practice if people participating choose.

Rejecting comparisons to racial segregation, she said: "It is possible for women to choose to be educated in an all-women environment. It's not something which is so alien to our culture that it has to be regarded like race segregation, which is totally different and it's unlawful and there's no doubt about that whatsoever."

A report by Student Rights found that segregated seating was promoted at more than a quarter of 180 university events at which radical preachers spoke in the year to March.