Message from the Vice-Chancellor: Publication of Research

Dear student,

Later today, the University will publish its research examining the historical sexual reorientation research and practice that occurred on the Edgbaston campus between 1966-1983.

This important report makes for difficult reading and lays bare a very challenging part of our history as a university, but it also sets out a clear set of recommendations for the University to reflect on.

I understand that many of you will be distressed and angered to learn of the findings of this research. While we cannot change the past, today, we want to formally acknowledge and apologise for the University’s role in the historical research and practices detailed in this report and the harm that they caused. We also want to take this opportunity to apologise for any distress caused by our initial response to media reports about this historical research.

We would like to commend the bravery of those from the LGBTQ+ community who have spoken out about their own experience of these practices. We understand the impact that conversion therapy has on individuals and unreservedly condemn this practice and are unequivocal that conversion therapy is unethical, degrading, and harmful.

The report covers sexual reorientation work, also called conversion therapy, carried out at the University between 1966-1983. The report was produced by researchers in the University’s Schools of Psychology and History and overseen by a Steering Group which included representatives from staff and student LGBTQ+ networks and associations as well as academics with expertise in related fields.

The research was commissioned following the testimony of an individual who came forward in 2020 to the BBC to report that he had experienced sexual reorientation techniques in the mid-1970s at the University.

The research into these practices, where the aim is to change a person's sexual orientation or to suppress gender identity, has now been published online and will be the subject of further staff, student and wider academic discussions. To ensure that a proper historical record is preserved, the relevant materials collected as part of this research have now been deposited within the University archives.

I welcome the recommendations from the Steering Group, and the University Executive Board will consider and respond to these over the coming weeks. We also look forward to ongoing discussions with staff, students and academics with expert knowledge in this area.

I would like to extend my thanks to the academics and to our LGBTQ+ staff and student representatives behind this important piece of research. As a university, it is essential that we can critically examine, acknowledge and learn the lessons of our past and this work enables us to do that.

I understand that the research will take some time to digest and both staff and students will have questions they would like to raise and areas for further discussion. If you would like to discuss further, please do register to attend our special Staff and Student Forum on Wednesday 22 June, 11am-12pm.

Lastly, we know some members of our community will find this news upsetting. Students can access support from our Pause team on campus service, online and on the phone to support students, the Student Wellbeing Hub and School Wellbeing Officers. Externally, Birmingham LGBT is a community support resource that offers wellbeing support, advice and counselling services and Galop’s Conversion Therapy Helpline, which provides a safe, confidential listening and information service to any LGBT+ person aged 13+ on 0800 1303335 or (Monday to Friday 10am – 4pm).

With best wishes,

Adam Tickell

Vice-Chancellor, University of Birmingham


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