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Eighteen universities yet to adopt IHRA antisemitism definition


Research Professional News reveals the universities in England that have not signed up

Almost 20 universities in England have not adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s working definition of antisemitism, despite government pressure to do so. 

Figures published by the Office for Students on 10 November revealed that 95 universities on its register have now signed up to the definition, up from 28 in September 2020. But an investigation by Research Professional News has found that 18 members of Universities UK (UUK) based in England—the jurisdiction covered by the OfS—have yet to do so.

In October last year, former education secretary Gavin Williamson wrote to vice-chancellors to say it was “frankly disturbing” that some universities had not adopted the IHRA definition, and warned that the OfS could be asked to take regulatory action against those that did not adopt the IHRA definition before Christmas 2020. That action could include the suspension of “funding streams”, he said.

The full list of institutions yet to adopt the definition: 

  • Bournemouth University
  • The Courtauld Institute of Art
  • Falmouth University
  • Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Kingston University
  • Leeds Beckett University
  • Norwich University of the Arts
  • Oxford Brookes University
  • Plymouth Marjon University
  • The Royal College of Art
  • Soas, University of London
  • The University of Buckingham
  • The University for the Creative Arts
  • The University of Cumbria
  • The University of Greenwich
  • The University of Northampton
  • The University of Reading
  • The University of the Arts London 

Research News Professional approached all the institutions that have yet to adopt the definition for comment. 

A spokesperson for Bournemouth University said the definition had been adopted in its student polices and that the institution would be updating its staff policies, while a University of Reading spokesperson said the institution “takes an active and vocal lead in countering racism and discrimination” and that a working group considering the findings of a May university race equality review will report by the end of 2021.

A University of Greenwich spokesperson said the institution was “consulting with our students and staff on this issue” and would then confirm whether it was to adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, and spokesperson for the University of Buckingham said the institution was “currently considering” adoption of the definition, and that the university “abhors antisemitism in all its forms”.

A Goldsmiths, University of London spokesperson said discussions were “ongoing” with students and staff about whether to formally adopt this definition, but that it would be “taken into account as part of any investigation into allegations of antisemitism”; and a spokesperson for The Courtauld Institute of Art said that while “we embrace the aims of the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism, we have chosen not to adopt it formally but will refer to it informally”.

Meanwhile, a UUK spokesperson said the organisation encouraged universities to do all they could to tackle antisemitism, and that this “includes considering adoption of the IHRA definition, while also recognising their duty to promote freedom of speech within the law”.


Research Professional News contacted both the Department for Education and the OfS to ask whether regulatory penalties were now likely, given that 13 months have passed since Williamson said such sanctions should be considered. Neither organisation commented on this specific query.

Chris Milward, director for fair access and participation at the regulator said that adoption of the definition “is voluntary and may be one aspect of providers’ wider work to tackle antisemitism”. “Compiling of the list of providers who have adopted was an information gathering, non-regulatory exercise,” he added. 

Speaking to the Westminster education committee in February, OfS chair and Conservative peer James Wharton said: “I don’t understand why any university would not have adopted [the definition], and I would want to look at those universities that haven’t, particularly given the very strong steer from government.”