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Campus - Aston Webb

The report covers sexual reorientation work, also called conversion therapy, carried out at the University between 1966-1983 and was produced by researchers in the University’s Schools of Psychology and History.

It confirms that such research did take place, led by two academics, Dr Maurice Feldman who worked for the University’s Department of Psychology between 1966 and 1983; and Dr Malcolm MacCulloch, who worked in the Department for Paediatrics and Child Health from 1967-1971.

The researchers uncovered evidence in the research published by Feldman and MacCulloch to show that the method they developed, called Anticipatory Avoidance (AA) Therapy, was undoubtedly used on University premises during the period covered by the report.

Given the significant time period which has elapsed since the period covered by the report, the researchers were not able to clarify how many people underwent treatment at the University.

Dr Mo Moulton, who led the research programme, said: “There is no moral or ethical support for activities aimed at changing either sexual orientation or gender identity, and there is no scientific evidence to support these practices either. Our report places conversion therapy at the University of Birmingham in its historical context, enabling us to acknowledge the harm inherent in such practices and to make a constructive contribution to ongoing dialogues.”

There was also evidence of two sets of apparatus used to deliver the therapy. This included a chair and screen, slides and a projector, and leads through which the researchers could deliver an electric shock through bands attached to the bodies of subjects.

Subjects were shown a series of images on the screen and could control how they cycled through the images, receiving a shock if they lingered too long on images depicting ‘sexual deviancy’.

Many of the studies published by Dr Feldman and Dr MacCulloch during their time at Birmingham were based on work they had undertaken previously in Manchester. It is clear, however, that the University of Birmingham gave them the platform and the credibility to continue publishing in this area. Dr Feldman was promoted throughout his time at Birmingham, and the research was listed by up to three University departments as their own.

The research into sexual reorientation work carried out at the University was prompted by 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 findings will be presented to the academic community during a symposium held at the University on 8 June 2022.