Student Policy on religion, belief and non-belief

1. Introductory statement

The University of York celebrates and values the diversity brought by its individual members and aims to create an environment where religious beliefs are welcomed and respected.

The Equality Act 2010 protects against discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief. This legislation also covers non-belief.

The University recognises the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The right to manifest beliefs is qualified by the need to protect the rights and freedoms of others.

2. Policy statement on spiritual/religious issues

The University of York does not, as an institution, have any religious affiliation or endorse any particular denomination or faith.

The University recognises the commitment of individual students to pursue a spiritual or religious practice and actively supports their right to do so in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect.

The University further recognises that there is a variety of obligations placed upon those following particular faiths. Where practicable, the University will provide information and facilities and will seek to resolve clashes between compulsory academic activities and essential religious observances.

3. Academic freedom

The University supports the free exploration, discussion and critique of knowledge and ideas as activities which underpin its core purposes of promoting teaching, learning and research. It expects staff and students to undertake such activities in ways which acknowledge and respect all forms of religion, belief or non-belief.

4. Aims

The University of York seeks to ensure that:

  • members of any religion or none are treated equally and fairly. See the Equality and Diversity Policy for Students
  • where reasonably practicable, appropriate facilities and services(1) are provided to meet the religious needs of all students
  • students are consulted about the appropriateness of services and facilities provided

5. Definition

This Policy covers any religion, religious belief or similar philosophical belief but does not cover political belief(2) or cults. It also covers non-belief.

6. Student admissions

The University undertakes to ensure admissions procedures are carried out consistently and fairly. Specifically, those administering the process must be aware of their obligation not to discriminate against applicants in relation to the terms on which offers are made, and the grounds on which applications are rejected.

7. Teaching, learning and assessment

The University seeks to ensure that teaching, learning and assessment are informed by an understanding of issues of equality and diversity in relation to religion, belief and non-belief.

It recognises that religious festivals, or other events of religious significance may coincide with assessment and timetabling requirements. As far as is reasonably practicable, the University will take steps to ensure that University examinations and major events do not coincide with obligatory religious observance.

8. Facilities and services

The University will, as far as is reasonably practicable, provide facilities and services(1) that accommodate the obligations of those following particular faiths. All relevant staff will receive appropriate training and guidance in relation to religion, belief and non belief to carry out their responsibilities under this Policy.

9. Support for students

The University will seek to provide support that is appropriate to the needs of students of different religious beliefs through the Student Services(3), supervisory system and college welfare teams. It will ensure that supervisors, both academic and personal, are aware of this Policy and that they support students in their right to equality of opportunity in relation to religion and belief.

10. Dress code

The University of York imposes no dress code on its students, and welcomes the variety of appearance brought by individual styles and choices of dress. The wearing of items in accordance with particular religious beliefs and associated cultural practices(4) is seen as part of this welcome diversity. Exceptions to the above are detailed at the end of this Policy.

11. Religious observance

a) The University will make reasonable efforts to provide suitable space for prayer, quiet contemplation and ablution where practical and will provide information about this provision.

b) The University will also provide information on places of worship, services and facilities, which are provided in the neighbourhood and region.

12. Food requirements

The University undertakes to regularly assess the demand for food which meets religious or associated cultural dietary requirements, in consultation with the relevant religious groups, and will provide it accordingly in its catering and retail outlets.

The University will be sensitive to the needs of members of its community who do not consume alcohol and will provide alcohol-free catering and social spaces.

13. Harassment 

a) Harassment(5) or bullying on the grounds of religion or belief and non-belief will not be tolerated and will be dealt with under the University Dignity at Work and Study Policy.

b) All members of the University community have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. However, if beliefs are promoted in a way that impinges on the rights and freedoms of others, this may result in disciplinary action. (Also see Paragraph 3).

14. Complaints

Students who wish to make a complaint under this Policy can seek help from the YUSU, the GSA, their Academic Supervisor, Head of College or College Tutor. Read the University's Complaints Procedure webpage for dealing with complaints from students and student applicants.

15. Implementation and responsibilities

The University seeks to ensure that, as far as is reasonably practicable, members of the University are informed of this Policy and any associated procedures. All members of the University are responsible for familiarising themselves with this Policy and its implementation.

Exceptions to Section 10 – Dress code

a) In order to comply with Health and Safety requirements specific items of clothing such as overalls, protective clothing etc. may need to be worn. If such clothing is in conflict with a student's religious belief, the issue will be referred to the academic supervisor, with the aim of finding a satisfactory outcome.

b) Where examination candidates need to be identified in relation to University assessment procedures, the verification of candidates will be carried out sensitively and by appropriate, trained staff(6)

c) The wearing of slogans or symbols which cause distress may constitute harassment(7) may be dealt with accordingly under the Dignity at Work and Study Policy.


(1) The word 'services' throughout this document refers to 'facilities and services' as opposed to 'religious services', and includes catering, accommodation, careers, sports, retail, conference and social facilities, the Information Centre, Library, the University Nursery and IT Support etc.

(2) Political beliefs are covered by the Equality and Diversity Policy for students

(3) Student Services including Open Door and Disability, college welfare, the welfare aspects of the supervisory system, YUSU (University of York Students' Union), the GSA (Graduate Students' Association)

(4) For example the wearing of hijab, kippah, mangalsutra, sari, headwear, or crucifix jewellery/adornments.

(5) Definition in the University Dignity at Work and Study code policy is "unwanted behaviour related to a protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect of violating someone's dignity or which creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.".

(6) For example in the case of individuals wearing veils.

Equality and Diversity Office

January 2011 (reviewed 2015)

Sources of support, advice and information

Contact us

Equality and Diversity Office
+44 (0)1904 324680

Contact us

Equality and Diversity Office
+44 (0)1904 324680