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Hundreds punished over racist and sexist comments

By JULIAN SHEA | China Daily | Updated: 2019-05-07 09:20

British universities have disciplined hundreds of students in recent years over sexually or racially abusive comments on social media, a freedom of information request has revealed.

Figures showed that in the last three years, institutions took action against 277 students, with 104 incidents in the year 2018-19.

The universities with the highest numbers were the Universities of Bedford and Central Lancashire, each with 22 students being disciplined.

High-profile incidents included the University of Exeter expelling law students for racist messages in a student society WhatsApp group, and two students from Nottingham Trent University being suspended for racist chanting which was recorded on film and described by a judge in a subsequent court case as "shocking, disgusting, appalling and disgraceful".

Ilyas Nagdee, Black Students' officer at the National Union of Students, said the figures were unsurprising as the union's own research revealed minority groups frequently found themselves on the receiving end of abuse. "Social media is often, sadly, a reflection of what is happening in the wider world," he added.

The director of the Runnymede Trust racial equality think tank Omar Khan said education was a mirror of society, and warned that the problem may be more widespread than was being reported.

"The findings remind us that a university education is no inoculation against racism, and the extent of discriminatory attitudes and behaviors across society," he told The Guardian newspaper.

"The threat of racism on campuses is being downplayed in media-driven moral panics on free speech, and university administrators must ensure they protect BME (Black and Minority Ethnicity) students from violence and harassment."

According to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, more than 500,000 overseas students study in the United Kingdom every year, with China one of the biggest contributors to foreign student numbers.

University College London has the greatest number of overseas students and, across the education sector as a whole, the majority of non-UK students come from other European Union member states.

The next biggest bloc of foreign students is the Chinese cohort, with more than one-third of all non-EU students in the UK in 2017-18 coming from China.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency's figure for Chinese students in 2017-18, around 106,000, was 21 percent higher than that of 2013-14.

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