AHS comments on publication of report into religion or belief in higher education

Today sees the publication of the report, Religion and belief in higher education: the experiences of staff and students, authored by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), the body working to promote equality and diversity in higher education. The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies (AHS), which is facilitated and supported by the British Humanist Association, acted over the past year as a stakeholder in the development of the report. The AHS believes that the report on the whole provides a positive contribution.

The report is largely based around a survey of staff and students that was conducted in December 2010 and January 2011. In December the AHS privately raised issue over the construction of the survey, challenging the ECU on a number of areas that did not allow secularists to give their point of view. In April the AHS gave feedback on a draft copy of the report.

The AHS is pleased to see that the majority of the issues it raised in its feedback were addressed prior to the final publication. 2010-11 AHS President Richy Thompson commented, ‘We welcome the changes made surrounding on ritual slaughter, graduation ceremonies, chaplaincy, single- and multi-faith space provision, and issues surrounding the term and, often, practice of interfaith excluding the non-religious.

‘However, some concerns do remain. For example, the report still recommends higher education institutions serve non-stunned meat, despite the views of the RSPCA, British Veterinary Association and Animal Farm Welfare Council that the practice be ended. We also remain concerned about reference to the flawed Census question on religion, and that our concerns about the funding of faith activities on campus were not taken up.’

The AHS looks forward to continuing to work with the ECU on the area of religion or belief in higher education.

Notes

For further comment or information, contact 2010-11 AHS President Richy Thompson on 020 7462 4993.

Read the Equality Challenge Unit report, Religion and belief in higher education: the experiences of staff and students, and their press release about the report’s launch.

Read the AHS’s May 2011 feedback on the draft of the report.

The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies (AHS) is the umbrella organisation for all non-religious student societies in institutes of higher education across the UK and Republic of Ireland. The AHS’s vision is a thriving atheist, humanist or secular student society in every institute of higher education in the UK and Republic of Ireland, networked together, with a shared voice in public life, whose members can contribute to and be part of the wider national and international movement. The AHS’s mission to build, support and represent atheist, humanist and secular student societies; to facilitate communication between them, to encourage joint actions and to ensure that their members have opportunities to be part of the wider national and international movement.

The AHS is facilitated and supported by the British Humanist Association.