Recently, the Anglo-Jewish world has been informed of the acute pressures on Jewish students in a range of UK Higher Education Institutions (HEI’s). While events at the University of Bristol, culminating in the university’s dismissal of the vocal anti-Zionist Dr David Miller, have topped this grim list, other institutions of higher education can claim a place in them, notably the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, which some claim Institutional anti-Semitism.
But although these case studies have rightly attracted widespread (indeed, international) publicity, much less attention has been paid to the creeping discrimination against Jewish students as a result of institutional policies that, on the face of it, have nothing to do with Jews at all.
I draw attention to the growing popularity of college admission policies designed – so we’re told – simply to attract students from a range of ethnic minority backgrounds. For example, York University recently announced six “fully funded” PhD scholarships as part of a “coordinated plan to increase diversity and inclusion” within its alumni “community.”
York’s announcement makes clear that applications are limited to “candidates from the United Kingdom who identify as being of black, Asian or minority ethnic origin”. Jews are now legally an ethnic minority in the United Kingdom. This situation was spelled out in the Race Relations Act 1976, which was confirmed (almost aside, that’s right) by Lord Fraser of Tollpleton in “Mandla” (1981) and reaffirmed in a Supreme Court ruling (2009) that contained allegedly discriminatory admission policies It was administered by the Free School of Jews (JFS) in Kenton, at the request of the then Chief Rabbi of the United Synagogue, Lord Sacks.
While delivering the landmark Supreme Court ruling in that case, the Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, reminded his audience, “There is a Jewish ethnic group. Discrimination on the basis of belonging to this group is racial discrimination.”
If the Jews were indeed, legally, an ethnic minority, then surely (I said to myself) they should be eligible in principle to apply for one of the PhD scholarships at York University. Naturally, I called the university to confirm that this was indeed the case. What I was told was as follows:
Currently, the eligibility criteria for these scholarships are based on data collected using the standard HESA race categories and the government’s list of ethnic groups (as it currently is). The data show that racial groups of blacks, Asians, and ethnic minorities (as defined by the HESA categories), are underrepresented in the PGR. [postgraduate] level at York University. Our new scholarships, along with other measures, are looking to address this underrepresentation that is evident from our data.
Faith-related data is not currently captured by these categories, however, we recognize that there is an ongoing debate on this issue.”
HESA is the Higher Education Statistics Agency. The long list of ethnic groups makes no mention of Jews at all. The list includes “other ethnic backgrounds”. But why is there no specific mention of Jews as an ethnic category?
It seems to me that York University is hiding behind this obfuscation, and is comforted by the argument that Jews are merely a religious group.
But of course they are not.
I must add that I dedicated York simply because her recent announcement caught my eye. I am well aware that other higher education institutions operate similar schemes. of mine alma mater, Oxford, is to offer such scholarships in the humanities in 2019. In practice, it appears that Jewish students are barred from applying.
A number of community organizations report efforts to counter anti-Jewish prejudice in the United Kingdom. Will they be persuaded to tackle the ostensible rank discrimination run by a growing number of prestigious higher education academies?
 https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2009-0105-juducation.pdf: Paragraph 28. Lord Phillips was summarizing the argument made by Lord Bannick, QC, during that case.
Professor Jeffrey Alderman is an academic, author and journalist