Where sex matters | Universities


Universities are creating an intimidating and hostile environment for staff and students who recognise that sex matters. They are not only being denied freedom of expression, but also suffering harassment and discrimination.

Photo of students taking notes by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

The Reindorf Review and the Forstater case confirmed that it is unlawful to persecute university staff or students because of their beliefs about sex and gender. University leaders should be seeking to rebuild cultures of academic freedom and legal compliance. But it has become clear that many lack the courage or capacity to address the issue. 

What’s the problem? 

Almost all universities in the UK are members of the Stonewall Champions Scheme, and have shown that they will continue to discriminate against academics and students who uphold a distinction between sex and gender.

Academics are being targetted with bullying, harassment and no-platforming at universities across the UK (Sex Matters keeps a database of reports in the media) Many other cases have been reported in the public domain. 

October 2018: The Guardian published a letter from a network of more than 100 academics, most in UK universities, concerned about proposed government reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, and their interaction with the Equality Act.

May 2019: Imperial College London’s vice-provost apologised for liking tweets by the organisation Transgender Trend. 

April 2021: The LSE took no public action when it emerged that a department had promoted a student essay which fantasised about stabbing “TERFs”.

May 2021: Barrister Akua Reindorf’s review of no-platforming at the University of Essex highlighted a culture of fear, policies that violated the Equality Act, and institutionalised discrimination and intimidation by ‘trans rights activists’ within the LGBT group of the university. This should have been a wake-up call for university leadership…

July 2021: Instead, the Vice-Chancellor of Essex issued an extraordinary apology for releasing the review during Pride Month and to “anyone having been made to feel unsafe as a result of the review.” 

October 2021: Protests against Professor Kathleen Stock by a group of students at Sussex University attracted attention to a long-term campaign against her. Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Chair of the EHRC, described the anonymous attacks on Professor Stock and the campaign to have her fired as “disgraceful”. 

There have been several open letters in support of Professor Stock, one by philosophers, one by legal academics
Sex Matters co-ordinated a letter calling on the EHRC to undertake a review of policies and practices in UK universities that impose a radical gender orthodoxy, and fail to protect those who recognise that sex is a real and important from bullying and harassment. The responses to that letter concerned us.


  • Exposing disinformation about Kathleen Stock

    The intensification of targeting of Professor Kathleen Stock attracted public attention to the long-term campaign against her, and to the larger issue of academic freedom. Claims have been circulating which seek to discredit her and those who support her. We assess each one.

    25th October 2021

  • A concerning response to the academics’ letter

    Signatories to our letter addressed to Baroness Kishwer Falkner at the Equality and Human Rights Commission have received correspondence criticising their decision to sign it, some of which we consider coercive, threatening or discriminatory.

    23rd October 2021

  • Academics write to the EHRC

    In the face of ongoing harassment and discrimination against university staff and students because of their beliefs on sex and gender 240 academics have written to Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Chair of the EHRC asking for the EHRC to undertake a “Reindorf Review” for the higher education sector. Download the...

    16th October 2021

  • Huddersfield University apologises for “transphobic tweets” investigation

    Huddersfield university has been forced to apologise and pay compensation to a PhD student after they subjected him to a lengthy disciplinary investigation over “transphobic” tweets. The University investigated Jonny Best for six months after a fellow student made an anonymous complaint about things he had written online. Best,...

    7th March 2021