Woman’s Place UK received £20,000 in return for consultancy work as part of the University of Oxford’s project Women and Equalities Law: Historical Perspectives on Present Issues. In their 2018-2020 financial statement, the group explained: “We received a consultancy fee of £20,000 from Oxford University to support research into women’s sex based rights… The funding from Oxford University went towards the costs of the Women’s Liberation 2020 conference and in support of The Political Erasure of Sex research project.” £20,000 is the largest single amount recorded in the financial statement and represents 15.7% of the group’s total income from January 2018 to October 2020. The group does not publicly advertise any consultancy services.

This funding has culminated in a research project titled The Political Erasure of Sex. On the project’s website, the first report, Sex and the Census, is described as one which “explores how the almost exclusive reliance on consulting with stakeholders from LGBT organisations led the census authorities to conflate the concepts of sex and gender identity, confuse what they are measuring, and redefine the sex question on the census as a gender identity question. This process, we show, has happened without democratic transparency or accountability, and to the detriment of the interests of people who are protected in law under the characteristic of sex, and to the needs of data-users more widely”.

Sex and the Census claims that “the UK census authorities are jeopardising our ability to collect robust, high quality sex-disaggregated data in the forthcoming UK census” due to “changes to the sex question in the census” so “the sex question now records ‘self-identified sex’, or gender identity, rather than biological sex”. The report concludes that “the demands of groups which claim to represent the interests of the trans community have been privileged to the detriment of women, but also to those who require robust data on sex to plan public services, allocate public resources and monitor equalities outcomes”.

The History Faculty, which hosts Women and Equalities Law: Historical Perspectives on Present Issues, has described the project further, explaining how it was “funded by Strategic Priority QR funding allocated to Oxford University. It is led by Professor Selina Todd and aims to use existing research to inform policymaking in the area of women’s equalities… An outcome of the project is a report examining the importance of collecting data on men and women in national records such as the census. This report has been disseminated to policymakers and bodies responsible for designing and delivering the next UK census in 2021 (2022 in Scotland)”.

Professor Selina Todd has been described as having “anti-trans beliefs” by the Oxford SU LBGTQ Campaign and was disinvited from the Oxford International Women’s Festival in March on the basis of her views regarding gender identity. Todd has also described herself as a “strong supporter” of Woman’s Place UK and co-signed a letter to the Labour Party regarding the Party’s inclusion of transgender women within their all-women shortlists. The letter claimed that this stance was “asserting gender identity over sex-based exemptions” and did not uphold women’s rights to “sex-segregated spaces”. The letter continued that “we will not tolerate women being slurred with the misogynist insult TERF [Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist] or being called ‘cis’ against their will”. The Labour Campaign for Trans Rights has criticised Woman’s Place UK, describing them as a “trans-exclusionary hate group”. The campaign’s pledges labelling WPUK as such were signed by politicians including Lisa Nandy, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Dawn Butler, and Emily Thornberry.

The Oxford Student Union LGBTQ Campaign responded to Woman’s Place UK’s consultancy work: “The campaign is horrified but not shocked to learn of the university’s financial contributions to WPUK. We do not believe that the presence of WPUK in Oxford or the university’s monetary support of them is compatible with any effort to create an environment that is welcoming or supportive of trans students and employees, but the institution’s failure to listen to its trans students makes its repeated positive engagement with this group less surprising than disappointing”.

Woman’s Place UK declined to expand on the precise nature of their consultancy work for the University and referred to the claims of the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights as “scurrilous and unevidenced”, continuing: “We are against all forms of discrimination. We believe in the right of everyone to live their lives free from discrimination and harassment…We were established to ensure that very real concerns about how changes to the GRA might impact on the Equality Act were considered in the government’s public consultation… Sadly, several LGBT+ organisations (Stonewall, Gendered Intelligence, Scottish Trans Alliance) have actively lobbied to have these single sex exemptions removed from the Equality Act. It is perfectly proper that women should be able to campaign to keep them”.

When approached for comment by Cherwell, the University provided a link to the project’s website.

Professor Selina Todd and the History Faculty have been approached for comment.

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