Oxford University has apologised after it was accused of suggesting that people with autism are “racist”.
The university sparked controversy earlier this week after its equality and diversity unit circulated advice claiming that avoiding eye contact was a sign of racism.
According to the newsletter, not speaking directly to others is a racial “micro-aggression”, also known as “everyday racism” that could lead to mental ill health.
Dozens of people have since criticised the institution for indirectly suggesting that people with autism - who often find it difficult to make eye contact - were racist, with some accusing the university of “ableism”.
Oxford University has since apologised via Twitter for failing to take into account “other reasons for difference in eye contact and social interaction, including disability”.
In a further statement, a spokesperson for the university said it was “apologising to everyone” who had raised concerns about autism with regards to its recent advice.
“The newsletter was too brief to deal adequately and sensibly with the issue,” they said.
“This was a mistake. We are stressing to everyone contacting us that Oxford deeply values and works hard to support students and staff with disabilities, including those with autism or social anxiety disorder.”
According to the NHS, autism is a condition that affects "social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour".
Symptoms can include difficulty making eye contact, being unable to understand sarcasm or metaphors and some emotional and behavioural problems.