Oxford University chiefs U-turn over plans to give ‘woke score’ to recruits

Oxford University chiefs U-turn over plans to give ‘woke score’ to recruits after backlash from academics

  • Bosses suggested an equality, diversity and inclusion score for new recruits
  • But they have been ditched after they were slammed as ‘crazy virtue signalling’ 

Oxford University has ditched plans to give a ‘woke score’ to job applicants following a backlash from academics.

Bosses at the university’s race equality task force had recommended that a ‘commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion work’ should be ‘essential criteria’ for new recruits and ‘in all reward and recognition processes’ for existing staff.

It also said that a ‘centrally funded pool of trained EDI observers’ should be set up to ‘support’ recruitment panels.

The proposals came amid a growing trend across public bodies to require job applicants to display their woke credentials.

As revealed in The Mail on Sunday, application forms for posts as wide ranging as cleaners, administration staff and chefs – as well as academics – are increasingly questioning candidates about how they would ‘promote equality and diversity’ and challenge discrimination.

Oxford University has ditched plans to give a ‘woke score’ to job applicants after a backlash from academics

But moves to do the same at Oxford have been quietly dropped after the plans were described as ‘megawoke’ and ‘crazy virtue signalling’.

Dons feared it would mean researchers were given a ‘woke score’ when they apply for a job.

‘If we are supposed to pay attention to their EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) – their woke score – does this mean it doesn’t matter if they are useless at teaching and research? Or do you now have to get a minimum woke score to get a job?’, said one.

‘Do you mark someone down because they haven’t jumped on the woke bandwagon?’ he added.

Another academic described the proposal as ‘megawoke’ and damaging and said academics’ ability to ‘spot a microaggression a mile off’ had nothing to do with their performance in teaching and research.

In a university-wide consultation on the task force proposals, a quarter of staff objected to including the commitment to equality as essential criteria in recruitment, while one in five objected to the idea of equality and diversity observers. 

The university’s own analysis of the consultation responses said the proposal had generated a ‘layer of tension’.

The opposition seems to have hit home. The university’s new race equality strategy makes no mention of equality and diversity criteria in recruitment. 

Instead it contains general objectives to ‘engage all members of the University community to address racism wherever it is found at the University’ and to increase the proportions of ethnic minority staff in senior roles.

Associate professor of sociology at Oxford, Michael Biggs, who opposed the plan, told the Mail On Sunday: ‘Requiring all staff to demonstrate ‘good citizenship and/or commitment to EDI work’ would mean implementing a regressive system of political and religious discrimination.

‘Before 1871 the University of Oxford required commitment to the Anglican Church—we should not recreate the kind of discrimination that was abolished 150 years ago. The only requirement for recruiting academics should be the quality of their research and teaching.’

Toby Young, general secretary of the Free Speech Union, said: ‘I’m delighted the university has scrapped the proposal. For Oxford to force all its staff to declare their fealty to equity, diversity and inclusion as a condition of employment would have worrying implications for their right to freedom of expression and of conscience. It might also have been a breach of the 1986 Education Act, as well as Articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

‘Article 9 protects the right to hold and manifest a belief, including the right not to be obliged to manifest a belief, and Article 10 protects the right to freedom of expression, as well as the right not to express a particular belief. I’m delighted the University has scrapped the plan.’

An Oxford University spokesman said: ‘The University is committed to inclusive recruitment practices, embedding equality, diversity and inclusiveness in the entire recruitment process without mandating the inclusion of EDI criteria.

‘The University’s vision is to be a diverse and inclusive community that stands as a model for society. One of Oxford’s key tools to deliver this is the Race Equality Strategy, which envisages a long-term programme to deliver lasting change for staff and students at Oxford, including increasing the proportions of Black and Minority Ethnic staff in senior academic, research and professional roles.’

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