“No Chinese or similar” says YRLA



The letting agency APYork has been accused of racism and sexism following advertisements placed on their website.

From January, the company’s website featured houses with “no all male groups” specified in red under their descriptions, which have since been removed. Further data was exclusively given to Nouse from the records of the ex-agency YRLA.

The document, which lists properties to be let until the end of this academic year, shows notes stating “no Chinese”, “no all male groups”, and “no Chinese or similar” next to numerous properties.

YUSU Welfare Officer, Ben Humphreys, described the information as “shocking”, stating that “it reveals YRLA to have been racist, Xenophobic and raises serious questions”.

He disclosed that the Pro Vice-Chancellor for students and the Registrar of the University have been aware of the problem for some time, and that YUSU “look for immediate action to remove them [APYork] from campus”.

In response, David Garner, the University’s Press Officer, confirmed that the information had been passed to the Registrar who is “consulting solicitors about what action to take”, describing it as “clearly unacceptable”.

When confronted with the information, MacMahon commented that “it might be a preference stated by a landlord,” and that “in the past we have taken that into account”.

He went on to say that his company “tr[ies] to educate” the landlords, and that the advertisement online “shouldn’t say that”.

He added: “It would have been a mistake, it won’t be there now.”

­­“[The report] is shocking… it reveals YRLA to have been racist, Xenophobic and raises serious questions.” Ben Humphrys,
YUSU Welfare Officer

One of his previous partners from YRLA, Adam Bennett of Adam Bennett Lettings, stated that his new company does not follow similar practices to MacMahon.

“I don’t have a problem with Chinese people but I do have a problem with people who do,” he stated.

He continued to say that whilst problems can occur when international students are unable to provide UK guarantors, the University frequently acts as a guarantor for foreign students and that there is “no excuse for dealing with racists”.

York’s other major letting agencies have also expressed their outrage at MacMahon’s practices. “We would never do anything like that, we are strictly open to anybody,” stated a spokesperson for IG Property.

Similarly, Niall McTurk, owner of Sinclair Properties, commented that it is “outrageous if people are discriminating”.

McTurk went on to explain that Sinclair has “a very high proportion of houses with all male groups”.

This is the second controversy to emerge in a matter of weeks surrounding the shamed letting agency YRLA.

Nouse reported last term that a bitter legal battle amongst the directors and ex-staff had led to serious student complaints regarding a lack of information from the agency.

As a result, students were left confused and unaware of who to pay rent to and when to pay it.

Bennett told Nouse that YRLA “wasn’t run like a partnership, it was more like a dictatorship”. He went on to describe MacMahon’s leadership and work ethic as being of full of “smoke and mirrors”.

APYork developed as a company when MacMahon split from YRLA last year.


  1. “He continued to say that whilst problems can occur when international students are unable to provide UK guarantors, the University frequently acts as a guarantor for foreign students .. ”

    No it doesn’t. It only does that for non-EU students, the rest of us are expected to find a landlord who does not require a guarantor.

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  2. APYork claims to “specialise in providing student accommodation in York” on their website. For a company that “specialises” in providing a service for students, it is doing a very bad job of appealing to students, with such prejudicial and discriminatory actions.

    George: I am simply speculating but perhaps Bennett, who made that remark you quoted, was referring to “foreign students” as those who do not pay “Home” Tuition Fees. This may also be the reason that the university does not act as a guarantor for EU students. If an EU student would consider paying the much higher tuition fees then maybe the university would consider acting as a guarantor for that particular student :)

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  3. “perhaps Bennett, who made that remark you quoted, was referring to foreign students as those who do not pay “Home” Tuition Fees. This may also be the reason that the university does not act as a guarantor for EU students.”

    If this is the case then it’s a pretty bad reason – the amount of money we have to pay is hardly relevant to whether we have any relatives living in the UK!

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  4. The UK is in the EU and China isn’t – so there will be differences. EU students have several benefits as a result of the organisation and that includes the lower fees costs.

    Whether you’re from China or Poland really shouldn’t make a difference on whether or not you are allowed to choose a specific house. To say as a blanket statement that one race or nationality is barred is surely extremely discriminatory.

    And yet again, Commercial Services are happy to get money irrespective of how extremely dodgy the company is. They should get their act together and work for the benefit of the student body – they shouldn’t be making money out of people trying to exercise and they shouldn’t be giving assistance to organisations attempting to discriminate against foreign students (especially since York is trying to attract more East Asian students in particular)..!

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  5. Bennett told Nouse that YRLA “wasn’t run like a partnership, it was more like a dictatorship”.

    But I thought in the past Bennett claimed to run YRLA so any papers relating to last year are his? I rather suspect Nouse is being manipulated here.

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  6. Yesterday the university’s solicitors served a notice on AP York to evict them from their unit. This raises several questions.

    If Robert MacMahon’s business is closed down what will happen to tenant’s deposits? Who will manage their houses? Will the landlord’s get their rent?

    Should the business be allowed to continue taking deposits & signing contracts in the full knowledge that it is going to be closed down.

    I think all student househunters need informing of this as a matter of urgency.

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  7. Similarly, Niall McTurk, owner of Sinclair Properties, commented that it is “outrageous if people are discriminating”.

    McTurk went on to explain that Sinclair has “a very high proportion of houses with all male groups”.

    I asked about allocation policy in APYork as I was in the office when it appeared two groups wanted the same house. It seemed more a case of first come first served. This is a lot more open than the Sinclair allocation policy which is a joke on campus.

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  8. Michael J: surely if the organisation is evicted it still exists; surely it’s just no longer using those premises?!

    And yes, Sinclair has problems. APYork has problems and another couple have problems – thankfully the university is actually addressing them and improving them this year and looking forward towards a more reliable and better future for off-campus accommodation… Fixing one problem may cause another and we need to ensure that all landlords and agencies treat students as they should be treated (or at the very least by law!)

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  9. I cannot see how Adam Bennett can claim any moral high ground. We went on a viewing with them today and there was a let agreed sign from APYork otside. They told us the house was let in December – why waste our time?

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  10. Dear Fed up I have just had a chat with the landlord he say’s that APYORK have not told him that the house is let. He says that if you want the house you can have it please call into my office at 9am and we can sort the paper work.

    Anyone who has a complaint please email me first and let me try to sort it out if you are still unhappy then post it on this web page.

    Many thanks

    Adam Bennett

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  11. Is anyone surprised by this behaviour on the part of Mahon?

    Comment edited by a moderator

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  12. As I Chinese person I find this outrageous. Particularly since one of the YRLA partners is still happily operating on campus.

    I was pleased to read that another agency “York Student Lets” has appeared- run by students apparently – to deal with this problem of diabolical private sector lettings which happens every year.

    When will it end?

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  13. I rather thought that all the ex partners of YRLA were still operating on campus. We have the suggestion that some landlords may discrimnate one former YRLa partner agrees such problems exists and claims to try to educate landlords. The other seems to deny all knowledeg or involvement? Perhaps none come out in a good light but maybe McMahon is being honest?

    Anyhow is the picture significant? If so this likes a property being advertsied in Bennet’s window so all we need is three Chinese lads to apply for a tennancy on the property.

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  14. Dear Kitty,

    We agree! At York Student Lets we’ve never had a complaint about being racist/sexist or anything like that. In addition we treat students with friendly respect. It pains us to hear so often about the childish arm-twisting tactics used by other agencies.

    So things are generally pretty cordial, after all we are a student-run letting agency.

    Best wishes,

    York Student Lets

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  15. 28 Jan ’10 at 6:23 pm

    student househunter

    Doesn’t everyone realise it’s the landlords who specify who they want as tenants and not the agency? If they have told the lettings agent they don’t want a particular type of group living in their property then that’s their decision- not APYorks.

    APYork shouldn’t be penalised for giving their customers what they ask for- that’s what businesses are about. As someone who went on a viewing the other week, I can honestly say the service and helpfulness of the staff was unrivalled by the other agency nearby. I won’t mention which one…

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  16. 28 Jan ’10 at 8:06 pm

    Lucy Alexander

    Racism exists in York.

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  17. That’s shame and shocking! As I am a chinese guy, also maybe the whole international students studying in here, we got no family in this place, so who supposes to be our guarantors except the uni? I also rent an apartment b4 in manchester, and the landlord was quite nice, most of them don’t need the guarantors, the only thing you have to do is paying the deposit as one month renting fee.
    I really don’t understand the landlord’s action here in York. I have to say if you come to China and no one wants letting the room to you, what do you think? Do you think we’ve no money to pay you? Wrong! Guarantor means nothing, and take my advise, go to school to learn how to run business. Such a big joke!

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  18. Totally agree with Lucy, racism is a severe issue within the University of York, not in the form of on campus racism but in general with the community. Being a Chinese, I have experienced first hand several racist incidents put upon me by the chavs and other youngsters near the Osbaldwick/Tang Hall areas (where most student houses are). This issue didn’t just raise from the grounds recently, its been here for quite some time and the university have so far not fully dealt with it.

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  19. Just to give a little perspective on this: I have lived in China for many years and, as a foreigner here, experienced racism too, from the obnoxious staring and shouts of “laowai!” (foreigner!) when I walk down the street to refusal of goods and services just because the person involved didn’t want to deal with a “foreigner” (even though I speak and understand fluent Chinese). Racism in any form and in any place is unacceptable.

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  20. I hope that York Student Lets obliterates all of the pathetic back-handed and frankly nasty business styles of several major student letting agencies – I still don’t know why it hasn’t been done before (not least by YUSU) as it would eliminate many of the real problems that letting agencies cause!

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  21. @Dalu Yes but you see Western society claims to be more civilized in dealing with social issues and inequalities. And I’m sorry but “laowai” isn’t a racial slur, it just means someone who is foreigner, and I’m sure the word “foreigner” in the English language isn’t racist so don’t see how it is racist in Chinese. And personally, the reason many people refuse to deal with foreigners on the street is primarily because they sometimes feel vulnerable around them.

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  22. @Charlie
    “Foreigner” / “laowai” are not racist terms per se but can be used in a racist way. I’m sure if you walked around York and found a lot of people staring at you, pointing at you and calling out “Foreigner! Foreigner!” loudly after you then you would find such behaviour uncomfortable and based entirely on your race. This is what happens to foreigners in China. As a Chinese, you shouldn’t have to tolerate such behaviour in York; and, as a foreigner, I shouldn’t have to tolerate such things in China. Once again, racism is bad, wherever it happens, we must all work to stamp it out.

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  23. @Dalu
    Don’t take this the wrong way but where are you actually from? Because you said that you speak Chinese fluently? Personally, being probably the most critical Chinese on campus, I have never seen foreigners get such abuse such as pointing and calling outs in public except in bartering for goods. Once again, I just want to ask this because it seems there is some disapproval of Chinese on your part, and once again saying “Foreigner” is not racist, especially since a foreigner isn’t a race whereas Chinese is. You are basically now stating Chinese in general are racists to everyone but ourselves?

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  24. @Charlie
    The point of this article is that people are upset, and rightly so, that property advertisers in York are excluding Chinese people. My point is that, on a regular basis, in all kinds of similar situations, non-Chinese people are also discriminated against and singled out based on their race in China too, it’s just a fact. I am living in Nanjing, and a British friend of mine was recently refused an apartment here purely because the landlord only wanted Chinese people and not foreigners (= people of other race).

    I don’t disapprove of Chinese people at all. I do certainly disapprove of the knee-jerk nationalistic reactions that many Chinese people tend to have when anyone points out an uncomfortable truth or fact about China. I am just saying here that racism also exists in China (whether you accept that or not or have personally experienced it or not) and needs to be tackled in the same way that racism as described in this article needs to be tackled in York.

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  25. Dalu – in relation to the shouting and pointing, is this in rural areas of China? i only ask because I know of people who have been to places in China where the locals have never seen a white man before, and go a bit crazy when they do, it’s not racism, it’s just a bit like an alien turning up in your back garden, if you’re not exposed to foreign people in anyway, personal contact, media or otherwise, you’d probably be a bit miffed/excited to see one.

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  26. @Dalu

    If you think I am being nationalistic and appearing aggressive then you have totally misunderstood. If you read my comments clearly, I was basically stating that you can’t really say a nation is racist purely based on the word “foreigner” and as Ben states later, it is more to do with the surrealism surrounding foreigners as many Chinese haven’t seen a white man except in film and editorials. Don’t get me wrong, racism exists in all societies, it is how the authorities deal with it that matter most and as you should have read in my initial comment, I have stated that the university is obligated to stand down firmly on any racist organisations.

    Plus, it is you who went off topic to talk about racism in China whilst we are addressing the problems close to us. As Ben points out, if you think general curiosity is racism, then what about the documentary makers that go to African states only to be chased by little kids laughing and pointing, would that be racist as well? Your points so far are not fact, just injurious judgements.

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  27. @Ben
    Yes, you’re absolutely right, people in rural areas of China do tend to get very excited when a foreigner appears, and it is largely because they have never encountered such an “alien” before. As mentioned before, though, I live in a big developed city, Nanjing, and have travelled to many other places in China, rural and urban, and the same underlying trend exists: you are treated differently and often discriminated against purely because of your race. Hopefully, this will change over time.

    This issue relates to this article because I hope that the same Chinese students getting upset about discrimination in York will also get equally upset about discrimination against foreigners in their own country and will feel motivated to do something about this when they return home.

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  28. Dalu Laide :

    who cares if you have experienced racism in China. That doesn’t mean it’s right for Chinese people to experience racism in York.

    Come on… these are lessons you learn in pre-school.

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  29. @Brit Jade
    Did I say it was right for Chinese people to experience racism in York? If you read what I have written, I have said quite clearly it is NOT right for anyone to experience racism anywhere.

    “who cares if you have experienced racism in China.” So racism in China is “OK” and not to be “cared about”? I don’t think you’d be so blase about it if you were on the receiving end.

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  30. @Dalu Laide,
    I’m sorry to hear you such of bad experience in China. But when is end about you mentioned Chinese people feel upset about discrimination in York and will fell motivated to do something about this when they return home?

    I’m sure most of Chinese is not a racism. The only way they “do” it and makes you “feel” it is because they never saw a foreigner in their place b4, they don’t know you at all. Some of this happened in China about foreigner gambling and taking drugs in their home in some places in China. The landlord just don’t want to get any trouble with that. Even my family got another flat in Beijing, they just want to let it to any one they know, or their friends familiar with.

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  31. @ Scouse Lass – Yes, APYork (former YRLA) does have a first come, first-served policy, but I can speak from experience that this does not occur the way you may have had it explained, and like most things that McMahon ever does, it is full of confusion and ridiculous excuses with only himself knowing the answers. For example, APYork tell the two vying groups that if they want the house it is first one back to the office with all the cheques signed for the deposit. However, a friend of mine (in a group of four) has been in a situation whereby they rushed home to get chequebooks, but only two people from the other group signed on the house before they got back. This is clearly unfair and showing that there is one set of rules for one group, one for another. For McMahon, different rules seem to apply to different people.

    @Student Househunter – It is not a case that APYork are just giving the customers what they want, McMahon should be trying to persuade these landlords that Chinese tenants, or all male tenants are no more likely to cause problems than any other group. If he is unable to do this then he should refuse to do business with them on the grounds that they are either racist or sexist (not often it occurs on the part of men!) and that he doesn’t want those sort of people as landlords for his tenants. Of course, however, he would never go this far as he doesn’t want to rock the boat and cause upset… to his bank balance.

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  32. @Dalu

    Unfortunate to hear your experience has created such a negative image of China on your part. It seems to me you don’t quite understand the modern Chinese culture, there are several underlying issues at hand and one most of all is the political pressures potentially put on people if seen talking with a foreigner, this is not anything we can change so how you can say it is us to blame just forfeits the argument. Secondly, Westerners going to China will always be seen as different, you may think its racism but it isn’t, its just that look people give to tourists. Im sure we have all experienced that going to different countries whereas our culture do not necessarily match theirs. This isn’t racism, its just not fitting in, theres an ongoing naivity where people think that if someone looks at them slightly differently or treats them differently, then it must be racism. Its funny how you quotes “alien” as if this is a discriminitory statement, but if you look it up, legally, all nations must call foreigners alien, plus thats the Chinese translation as well “wai guo ren” (from a distant place).

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  33. 1 Feb ’10 at 12:19 am


    Interesting as AdamBennett (also ex YRLA) seems to have several different agencies running out of one office, or is it landlords promoting their own houses in prefernce to others? My friend’s group were told by that agency they could definately have one house and to come back to pay their deposits. On returning they were told the house had been taken by another group.

    The check book race at APYork hardly sounds elegant but at least it seeme to have some objective and transparent element. Also when I was in the APYork office there was a group considering taking a house, but clearly nor certain. They were left alone sitting at one of the tables and told to ask any qusetions they had. They left without taking the house. I overheard the manage talking to one of the staff saying that if they had any doubts they had made a brave but correct decision. Hardly a case of applying pressure.

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  34. Dear moderator re Undergraduate I do not think that this is a genuine Comment please remove it.

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  35. Comment: “A remark expressing an opinion or reaction”.

    Dear moderator re Adam Bennett I do not think that this is a genuine Comment please remove it.

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  36. I think Adam Bennett is just a little touchy about people commenting on this article as he was a partner of YRLA at the time the racist instructions were being circulated and did not stop or hinder it from happening.

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  37. I don’t know what’s so surprising about this. Racism is a fact of life in the UK. I imagine that articles like this one have come up time and again to express outrage at the overt existence of racist sentiments in the supposedly progressive British society.

    Of course I agree that the uni should do something about this, but I’m afraid they aren’t terribly interested in student welfare anymore. After all, they’ve got expansion projects to mind.

    So we’ll probably be left with racist landlords and a general feeling that foreigners, particularly non-white foreigners, are unwelcome. Business as usual.

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  38. @ Greeny

    For your information, Adam did raise it with Robert about the racists comments on housing lists and told him to delete them, Adam was never in control of any of the administration at YRLA it was all down to Robert as Adam was not deemed to be worthy!!!

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  39. To be fair, I think this article is missing the point a bit – the agency advertises houses on behalf of landlords, right?
    If a landlord tells the agency that they do not want the house to be let to ‘all male groups’ or ‘no chinese students’, the agency can’t really go against their wishes. They job is to fill the houses, not the decide who the landlord is willing to have in them.

    I am in NO way condoning racism – quite frankly it’s disgusting that anyone would say something like that, but in reality, I don’t think the agency is entirely to blame.
    Also, we ought to be reminded of the fact that whether we like it or not York is one of the more subtly racism parts of the country, as shown by the fact that they voted BNP only last year. So is it really surprising that there are people out there saying things like this?

    Personally, I think all the bickering and one-uping between APyork and Adam Bennett is pathetic. They need to stop acting like children and just get on with business. It’s about time they stop dragging students into their petty arguments.

    As a current second year living off campus, I’m glad my house isn’t let be either party.

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  40. To be fair, the agency should be aware of discrimination laws and then say to the landlord “We can’t do that, it’s illegal”. Doing something illegal doesn’t stop being illegal because you’re doing it on behalf of someone else.

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  41. Dear All,

    Letting agents are legally responsible for the content of their public advertisements and even more so their internal administration systems.

    An agency with such comments is in breach of sex/race discrimination statutes.

    You will never see anything like this at York Student Lets and we encourage those affected by issues such as this to contact the accommodation office – or if they are looking for a non-discriminatory lettings service, contact us.

    As a student-run letting agency, it sadens us to hear of students being treat in this way and we can only hope this case is the last of its kind.

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  42. 6 Feb ’10 at 4:03 pm

    Clive Harrow

    Who are “York Student Lets”? On their website they state:

    “Our unparalleled connections with the University coupled with our registered offices on the University of York Campus place us in a unique position to provide a service to landlords and tenants which is personal, affordable and highly professional.”

    Are they part of the University or SU, or a commercial letting agents trying to disguise themselves as being a University service?

    Click on the map and their office location is in the middle of the lake!

    They don’t have many properties on their website either.

    “As a student-run letting agency…”, humm, will they be around in a couple of months time, can they cope with student enquiries when exam time comes and they have to do some work??????

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  43. They’re a student-run letting agency who are trying to break free of the extremely dodgy commercial agencies around York, from what I gather, and their address is listed as “York Student Lets, White Rose CETLE, University of York, Heslington, YO10 5DD” so why not just go in and see them over at Vanbrugh?

    Also you’re not even a York student so who are you?

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  44. Someone I know went into the APYork office on campus to ask if they could get their bond returned before he gets banned off campus over the racist stuff.

    He told them that he had sorted it out with the Uni and he was not leaving.

    Is this true.

    Has he got away with it ?

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  45. I was told by student services that there was no way would the university condone what A P York has been caught doing.

    Maybe the university think that everyone has forgotten about this and that the rent they receive for the office on campus is more important than enforcing their equal opportunities policy. Sounds about right!

    Could the university equal opportunities dept release a statement to clarify this please?

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