A top university in the West Midlands is allowing religious groups to segregate men and women during lectures and debates.
Aston University said it only allows separate seating on a ‘voluntary’ basis during events organised by societies or external groups and sends a member of staff to check that no-one is forced to sit where they do not want to.
But a report published by the equality group Student Rights says there have been lectures advertised on Facebook with ‘segregated’ seating according to gender, with ‘ladies at the back, men at the front.’
Both Wolverhampton and Staffordshire universities have stressed they would not allow any gender segregation on their premises, even if the events were organised by societies or religious groups.
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But a report compiled by the equality group Student Rights claimed lectures at Aston University had been advertised events with gender segregation.
It claimed that in February this year a speech was given by Abu Salahudeen entitled From Gunman to Emaan: Malcolm X, with the Islamic Society writing that ‘segregation will be observed’.
It also said that in March 2012 an event entitled The Ultimate End was advertised on Facebook and declared ‘segregation is observed...ladies at the back, men at the front of the lecture theatre and dinner prayer arrangements in different rooms’.
Aston University said it had seen no evidence to back up the claims. But it said it would allow events to take place with segregation if it was ‘voluntary’ and there would ‘always be a member of staff on hand’ to make sure it was not compulsory.
Alex Earnshaw, spokesman for Aston University, said: “The only time any voluntary gender segregation may take place is if it is a student society event, so not a university organised event, particularly if the topic for discussion is a religious theme.
“The men and women may voluntarily decide to sit in separate areas in the same room if appropriate to the topic. We will send university staff along to make sure this does happen on a voluntary basis.”