Ridicule over university’s ‘trans archeology’ course

Central hall and lake at York University
Central hall and lake at York University - BAILEY-COOPER PHOTOGRAPHY/ALAMY

The taxpayer is funding a PhD researcher exploring the “Transphobic Invocations of Archaeology” at the University of York, prompting one Tory MP to call for a review of the use of taxpayer funds for higher education.

The student, who is being paid a stipend by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) of approximately £18,622 a year, presented a paper earlier this year titled Bones Don’t Care About Your Feelings: Challenging Transphobic Invocations of Archaeology in (Social) Media.

A slide from the presentation asks: “What if I told you that when an archaeologist finds human remains, it is a fact that there [sic] only two choices for gender identification.”

The slide features branding for the University of York, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – a non-departmental government body that distributes funds for research – and AHRC’s White Rose University Consortium (a doctoral training partnership between the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York).

Conservative MP Nick Fletcher said: “We need to call a scam a scam when we see it. This is taxpayers’ money, at a time when households are struggling – and the tax burden is at an all-time high.

Breaking through early glass ceilings

“We should consider establishing a ‘Taxpayers’ Review Process’ to enable ordinary people to review and challenge UKRI and AHRC spending – similar to the process available for residents to review and challenge local authority accounts.”

Dr Emma Hilton, a developmental biologist and co-founder of Sex Matters, told The Telegraph: “Human remains cannot tell us anything about the unembodied ‘gender identity’ of a person. A female Viking warrior buried with male-typical war possessions tells us only that some women successfully broke through early glass ceilings.”

A UKRI spokesman said: “UKRI invests in a diverse research and innovation portfolio. Decisions to fund the research projects we support are made via a rigorous peer review process by relevant independent experts from across academia and business.

“The research councils also award block grants to Higher Education institutions to support PhD studentships. The institutions make decisions and allocate the funding to specific studentship proposals, following an application process.”

York University was approached for comment.