14/12/2011 05:44 GMT | Updated 14/12/2011 07:02 GMT

Cambridge University Dons Told Don't Shake Hands With Muslim Or Disabled Students

Cambridge University has warned its dons not to shake hands with Muslims or students with disabilities for fear of offending them.

The top university has cautioned its academics not to proffer their hand automatically in case the gesture causes an upset. A directive has also gone to admissions tutors which explains that some people are "culturally sensitive" to the traditional British style of greeting.

"Suitable body language conveys welcome just as well," Cambridge advises. But some dons are infuriated by the "advice", with one telling the Daily Telegraph they are being treated as "social misfits".

"It seems to be totally bonkers," one said. "We know when to shake someone's hand and when not to."

The academic, who asked not to be named, added that it all seemed "a bit stupid and pointless" and would make interviews "even more awkward".

The advice, published on Cambridge University's website, states "Apparently insignificant details of behaviour and language can offend disabled people."

Other "helpful" guidance includes:

  • You can use a common saying like ‘see you tomorrow’ with a visually impaired person
  • Don't lean on their wheelchair, if they have one
  • Talk to the disabled person - and not to their assistant or dog
  • Lip-reading is tiring; do trim your beard and moustache

A spokesperson for Cambridge University said the instructions only applied to Muslim women and people with certain disabilities.

"Dons should read the situation properly and bear in mind not all people will want to shake hands."

The university added the guidance had been blown out of proportion and it was "practical advice" for interviews.

Universities and Colleges Union General Secretary Sally Hunt said academics were "intelligent enough" to know when to shake a person's hand.