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Oxford co-led study finds Britons in favour of EDI initiatives but with renewed approach

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Oxford co-led study finds Britons in favour of EDI initiatives but with renewed approach

A new report released today, co-led by the University of Oxford, has found that most Britons support Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) initiatives, but believe improvements are needed to ensure they are relevant to their everyday experiences.

The report is based on a study by the University of Oxford, UCL Policy Lab and More in Common which examined the British public opinion about EDI by looking at a sample of over 6,000 people and focus groups who took part in the research.

The study, co-authored by Professor Tim Soutphommasane (Chief Diversity Officer), found that Britons are five times more likely to express positive views about EDI and that the initiatives are beneficial to them. The public, across ideological lines, are more likely than not to think that they personally benefit from EDI initiatives.

The study, however, also highlights the need for building greater confidence about how to speak about diversity-related matters, and for EDI initiatives to avoid reinforcing ‘us versus them’ dynamics. For example, fewer than three in 10 Britons think it is helpful to criticise people for making mistakes while handling diversity issues.

As with all things, equality, diversity and inclusion efforts should evolve and be updated, and we have pointed to ways institutions can approach the task of crafting an EDI 2.0. Progress on EDI has become more challenging amid political polarisation. But it is possible to have a sensible conversation grounded in evidence and experience. And it is possible to have a commitment to EDI, while also supporting freedom of speech. Getting this right is essential to building sustainable support for EDI and to EDI success in the future.

Professor Tim Soutphommasane, Chief Diversity Officer, University of Oxford

The research showed that nearly nine in 10 considered free speech as one of the most important rights. There is also strong support for ensuring that university students are exposed to a range of different views, even those they might find offensive. However, there is also recognition of the danger of hate speech, with 61 per cent of Britons believing that words can sometimes be as dangerous as physical violence. 

The report concludes with a series of recommendations for what the future of an ‘EDI 2.0’ could look like and how to empower EDI work. The recommendations include tailoring EDI activities institutions and organisations, focusing on people rather than contested concepts, building a culture of curiosity and generosity rather than criticism and avoiding reinforcing ‘us vs them’ dynamics.

Oxford’s efforts on EDI are about supporting our mission in teaching, research and the dissemination of learning. As part of this, we have an important role in contributing to public conversations and understanding about EDI,’ Professor Soutphommasane added.

Read the full report: Finding a Balance: How to ensure Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is for everyone