University of Birmingham apologises for its role in historical sexual reorientation research

The University of Birmingham has formally acknowledged its role in historical sexual reorientation research and practice on its Edgbaston campus.

Campus - Aston Webb

The University has apologised for the harm caused by these activities and voiced its condemnation of sexual reorientation practices that are degrading, unethical and harmful.

The acknowledgement follows the publication of a report that covers sexual reorientation work, also called conversion therapy, carried out at the University between 1966-1983. The report (LINK) was produced by researchers in the University’s Schools of Psychology and History and the work was overseen by a steering group including LGBTQ+ staff and student representatives.

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.

Following the publication of the report, Professor Adam Tickell, Vice-Chancellor and Principal at the University of Birmingham said: “We understand that many of our staff and students will be distressed and angered to learn of the findings of the research into these practices, where the aim is to change a person's sexual orientation or to suppress gender identity. Today I 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.

“I 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. We are unequivocal that conversion therapy is unethical, degrading, and harmful.

“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.

“Lastly, I would like to extend my thanks to the academics 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.”

Notes for editors

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  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.