To illustrate what I'm thinking of, this page by UCL on Brexit says:

Are EU students welcome in London?

Yes. In the words of Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London: "To the almost one million Europeans living in London ... you are welcome here." UCL fully endorses this statement.

There are tens of thousands of staff and students at the university, so it's statistically unlikely that they all endorse the statement. Who, then, decides that UCL indeed fully endorses this statement? He or she is speaking for the entire university. Does he/she know if indeed the majority of staff and students at UCL endorse the statement? If so, how?

If I had to guess, I'd hazard that the Vice Chancellor decides for the university as a whole, but I don't know if it is a solo decision, if the Vice Chancellor conducted a poll of the permanent staff (presumably not the students), or if the Vice Chancellor simply assumed that the university needs EU students for revenue so they had better endorse the statement.

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    Since your question is "who endorses that statement" rather than what the consequences are, I'll rather add this as a comment. A policy or a topic such as this one which is "fully endorsed by the University" means that all the staff have to respect that and act accordingly in all their professional communications. I'm sure there is University employees who think Europeans / women / some other minority should not be welcomed at their institution, however the key is that while they're free to privately share that with their partner, publicly they have to reflect the official University position.
    – penelope
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 11:29
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    @penelope Should be an answer. It's very good. Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 12:33
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    @penelope It's an interesting question whether tenured university staff "has to" publicly agree to the positions of their employer. In this specific case probably yes, but I could imagine that many other topics would be covered by freedom of research / teaching.
    – xLeitix
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 13:03
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    On that note, there are various polls and news pieces from 2016 when the referendum was a hot topic suggesting that the vast majority of UK university staff (>90% in some cases) did not support Brexit, so its not just the "boards" opinion, but a widely shared one. Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 16:29
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    Women are not a minority. Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 21:55

2 Answers 2


Universities work like any organization. The stance of the organization is the stance of its leadership. It can be the president, the chancellor, whatever you call it, it can be the board of directors, it can be the faculty assembly… It can even be a university-wide poll as you suggest. It depends on how the university is governed.

The statement "organization X has position Y" is a very common one in English. For example, "country X is a friend of country Y". "Statistically", it's unlikely that every single inhabitant of country X is actually a friend of every single inhabitant of country Y. Saying that a group of people does something is not the same as saying that every single member of that group does something.

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    In practice, a university often has a group of vocal activists who take over such things. The board often has not thought about such things, or not carefully. So they are often unsure and not confident, and so willing to go along with what some loud activist advocates. A few well placed newspaper editorials, a concerned call from a donor who has been manipulated by the activists, and suddenly there is an "official" policy.
    – puppetsock
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 14:56

Universities have a governance structure like any other other institution, company or country. For issues of this type, most universities have a committee for diversity and inclusion (example 1, example 2, example 3). The people in this committee design (suggested) policies and measures on the topic. Depending on the university and on the extent of the measure, most nontrivial changes of policy will have to be approved by the governing body of the university. The names and tasks of the different governing boards vary by university. For example, information about the governing structure of UCL can be found here.

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