United Kingdom

Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 2.5 5 5 5.5 6




Affirmation Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 0 0


  • Although multiculturalism in Britain is typically recognized as a demographic fact, it has not been formally affirmed in any constitutional, legislative or parliamentary sense. Indeed, discourse tends to shy away from the use of the term “multiculturalism” and leans instead toward that of cohesion and integration.
  • Nonetheless, there has been much activity within this area. For example, in 2001, a series of racialized incidents in Oldham, Burnley, and Bradford led to the creation of a review team on community cohesion (Home Office 2001). This, coupled with the London terrorist attacks of 7 July 2005, has contributed to a discourse that focuses primarily on communities. In 2005, the British government launched Improving Opportunity, Strengthening Society, a strategy to “increase race equality and build community cohesion by helping people from different backgrounds to get along well together in their local area” (Department for Communities and Local Government 2009), which concluded in 2009. At that time, the government announced a new strategy, Tackling Race Inequalities, which engaged in a number of consultations. The consultations culminated in a final report published in 2010 and the development of a Tackling Race Inequalities Fund (TRIF) that addressed some of the key policy recommendations in the report (Khor and Carlisle 2011). Since then, the government has conducted several reviews of race policy and racism affecting Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities, including the 2017 Lammy Review on racism in the criminal justice system (Lammy 2017), and the 2017 McGregor-Smith Review on race discrimination in the workplace (McGregor-Smith 2017). 
  • Although several government agencies have mandates related to multiculturalism, the Department for Housing, Communities, and Local Government is probably most directly involved, as it is responsible for social cohesion (European Commission 2020d). In 2018, the Department developed the Integrated Communities Action Plan, which sets out the Government’s “vision for building integrated communities where people of all backgrounds live, work, learn and socialise together, based on shared rights, responsibilities and opportunities” (Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government 2019). The plan outlines areas related to supporting migrants and notes that “integration is a two-way-street – local residents share a responsibility to welcome newcomers to their communities, including migrants, and provide the environment and opportunities for them to take part in community life that will enable effective integration” (Ibid, 9).
  • In addition, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, a statutory body created in 2007 has responsibility for issues related to equity, discrimination and human rights. It replaced the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality, and the Disability Rights Commission (Equality and Human Rights Commission 2020).



School Curriculum Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0.5 0.5 0.5


  • Rhetoric related to multiculturalism education has been present since the 1970s, but in 1981, the Home Affairs Committee Report found that efforts to meet the needs of ethnic minority students in education were still limited (Swann 1985, 219-220).
  • The National Curriculum Council, which was created as a result of the 1988 Education Reform Act, recommended multicultural and citizenship education be developed as part of the wider curriculum. This was never adopted (Figueroa 2007). Nonetheless, a 1985 report, Education For All, did recommend increased attention toward Britain’s “shared values” within school curriculum, as well as “an appreciation of the diversity of lifestyles and cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds which make up this society and the wider world” (Swann 1985). These recommendations were accepted and a small amount of money was allocated towards their application (Bleich 1998, 85). By the early 1990s, most local boards had integrated multiculturalism into their curriculum (Bleich 1998).
  • By 1991, 95% of local authorities had adopted either multiculturalism or anti-racism policies (Bleich 1998, 85-86).
  • In 1997, the New Labour government set up a unit in the education department to address ethnic minority educational achievement (Tomlinson 2005, 161).
  • Although responsibility for the delivery of education and curriculum continues to be delegated to local authorities, the Department for Education sets broader policy. The national curriculum provides guidelines pertaining to anti-discrimination and inclusion in schools (Department for Education 2014). Within citizenship education, the Department of Education maintains that students learn about the “diverse national, regional, religious and ethnic identities in the United Kingdom and the need for mutual respect and understanding” (Department for Education 2013a).
  • In addition, the Race Relations Amendment Act (2000) “requires [local authorities] to eliminate discrimination and promote equal opportunities, as well as develop race equality policies in a proactive rather than a reactive way, as had previously been the case” (Fry et al. 2008, 7; see also Tomlinson 2005).
  • In spite of this, some (e.g., Fry et al. 2008; Olssen 2004; Osler 2000) argue that there is insufficient emphasis in the curriculum on multiculturalism, anti-racism, and accommodation. Tomlinson (2005 167) confirms this view that “despite the introduction of citizenship studies, there has been no review of the National Curriculum to enquire whether it reflects Britain as a multicultural society.” The Ajegbo et al. (2007, 6) report found that the “quality and quantity of education for diversity are uneven across England,” and that its “priority is too low to be effective.” The report noted that many teachers lack confidence in engaging with diversity issues in the classroom and few schools connect with community resources that promote diversity education.
  • MIPEX data also suggest that teacher training in intercultural education is minimal in the UK and frequently depends on individual teachers’ motivation when it comes to professional advancement in this field (Huddleston et al. 2015).



Media Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 1 1 1 1


  • Prior to the 1980s, there was little attention paid to ethnic representation in the media, and it was partly in response to criticism that several initiatives were undertaken. These focused mainly on the training of white journalists and producers, as well as increasing the employment of minorities in the media sector (Alibhai-Brown 1998). A 1983 report by the Commission for Racial Equality, entitled Ethnic Minority Broadcasting, encouraged networks to look more seriously at media content so that it may “help to reflect our multi-racial society” (Zolf1989).
  • The 1980s saw a substantial increase in the number of ethnic-minority media organizations (Alibhai- Brown 1998, 112-114).
  • The 1988 Future of Broadcasting House of Commons Report encouraged broadcasting targeted towards ethnic minorities including broadcasting in ethnic minority languages. This has been running on BBC Channel 4 since 1982 (Zolf 1989, 20).
  • The 2000 Race Relations Amendment Act in 2000 requires each of the UK's four Arts Councils to demonstrate they are promoting racial equality (Fisher and Ormstron 2013).
  • At present, the Communications Act 2003 mandates the Office of Communications (OFCOM) to regulate electronic communications networks, including broadcasting, radio, and television. In carrying out these duties, section 3(3)(l) of the act requires that OFCOM consider “the different interests of persons in the different parts of the United Kingdom, of the different ethnic communities within the United Kingdom and of persons living in rural and in urban areas.” OFCOM has produced research that examines media literacy and consumption by ethnic minorities.
  • In addition, the BBC, which is the country’s public service broadcaster and is funded through a license fee paid by all households in the United Kingdom, includes among its objectives the representation and reflection of various communities, including ethnic and religious communities. The corporation notes that its purpose is “To reflect, represent and serve the diverse communities of all of the United Kingdom’s nations and regions and, in doing so, support the creative economy across the United Kingdom… the BBC should accurately and authentically represent and portray the lives of the people of the United Kingdom today, and raise awareness of the different cultures and alternative viewpoints that make up its society. It should ensure that it provides output and services that meet the needs of the United Kingdom’s nations, regions and communities. The BBC should bring people together for shared experiences and help contribute to the social cohesion and wellbeing of the United Kingdom.” (BBC 2016; see also Cullen International 2019).


    Yes, although there is variation.

Exemption Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 1 1 1 1 1


  • There is a fairly long history of granting exemptions to dress codes in the UK. This dates back at least to the Race Relations Act1976, which prohibited indirect discrimination. As& a result, even seemingly neutral laws may be deemed to be discriminatory if their application results in differential outcomes. Some of the exemptions that have been granted include those permitting Sikhs to wear a turban in lieu of a safety helmet while on a construction site (Employment Act 1989), in addition to those that exempt Sikhs from the requirement to wear a helmet while on a motorcycle (Motor Cycle Crash Helmets (Religious Exemption) Act 1976). Similarly, exemptions to the uniforms for bus drivers have been granted to permit the wearing of a turban and a long beard (BBC 2010a), and the uniform of the Metropolitan Police Service was adapted in 2001 to include the hijab as an option (Hopkins 2001). Amendments to employment laws in 2015 enable Sikhs to wear turbans in all workplaces (Talwar 2015).
  • There are also cases where exemptions have not been granted. These include the case of a Muslim woman who was employed as a bilingual support worker in a West Yorkshire school but was prevented from wearing her veil while teaching. She filed a grievance, and while a tribunal awarded her damages for pain and suffering, it upheld the policy. For its part, the school noted that the woman’s job as a bilingual support worker requires face-to-face interaction and the wearing of a veil that conceals the mouth interferes with learning (McLaren& 2006).
  • Although there have been multiple proposals for bans on Islamic veils and face coverings, there are presently no national or local policies in place that prevent Muslim women from wearing religious attire in public spaces. That said, schools are given autonomy over the wearing of religious attire from the Department for Education, outlined in their policy, “School Uniform: Guidance for Governing Bodies, School Leaders, School Staff and Local Authorities” (Open Society Justice Initiative 2018; BBC 2018a; Department for Education 2013b). There have been at least two cases where students were prevented from wearing a veil in school and courts sided with the schools’ policies (Open Society Justice Initiative 2018). A primary school in London attempted to ban headscarves for students under the age of 8 but revoked the policy after facing significant public pushback (Open Society Justice Initiative 2018).



Dual Citizenship Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 1 1 1 1 1


  • The UK has long allowed citizens to possess dual or multiple citizenships. Those who acquire British nationality are not normally required by the UK to renounce any other citizenship they may hold, and British nationals who acquire the citizenship of another country are normally permitted to retain their British citizenship (Home Office 2010; see also Howard 2005).



Funding Ethnic Groups Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 1 1 1 1


  • Funding for ethnic group organizations and activities was first initiated in the mid-1980s when the Arts Council of Britain began to target ethnic communities as beneficiaries of its resources. Although these opportunities gradually decreased in the 1990s (Fisher et al. 1994), the Home Office’s Ethnic Minority Grant Program came into effect in 1992, offering funding to ethnic groups to support voluntary sector projects in England and Wales; a similar program was also set up in Scotland (Karim 1996).
  • The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) also at one time provided funding to ethnocultural groups, but this does not appear to have continued after the CRE was reorganized into the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in 2007. Rather, the EHRC’s focus appears to be much more closely related to legislative compliance and the promotion of equality than to the funding and support of ethnocultural groups.
  • Now, the UK’s Big Lottery Fund, which was created by Parliament in 2006, disburses money raised through the sale of lottery tickets in the country. Through the Big Lottery Fund (now known as the National Lottery Community Fund) and a smaller program, Awards for All, various charities, community groups and schools can apply for grants to support local projects. The criteria are very broad and identify eligible projects as those that will improve life chances, build stronger communities and more active citizens, improve rural and urban environments and contribute to healthier communities (National Lottery Community Fund 2020). In their strategic framework, they note: “We value the diversity of communities we work with across the UK, are consistent in the quality of opportunities we offer, and support people to tackle inequalities” (Ibid). A number of ethnic groups have received funding through this program (Kahn 2006; see all previous grants awarded since 2004 in National Lottery Community Fund 2020b).
  • Other granting programs require organizations to meet specific criteria, which are typically related to the delivery of programs that meet established government criteria. For example, in 2009, the government created a two-year program, called the Tackling Race Inequalities Fund, which provided grants to eligible organizations whose programming relates to the promotion of race equality and redress of disadvantage (Khor and Carlisle 2011). In order to qualify for funding, groups had to meet specific criteria and deliver programs that meet the objectives set by the government.


    Some in recent years.

Bilingual Education Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 0 0.5


  • Afro-Caribbean and Muslim schools that were initially set up as separate schools in the 1970s and 1980s were not concerned with offering mother tongue education (Wei 2006, 77).
  • The school system in the UK has been characterized as “predominantly monolingual and unicultural” (Wei 2006, 82). Although complementary schools do exist, these receive minimal—if any—government support (Creese et al. 2006). Indeed, as Wei (2006, 78) points out, most complementary schools—whether based on language, culture, or religion—“were set up in response to the failure of the mainstream education system to meet the needs of the ethnic minority children and their communities—a fact that is often deliberately ignored by various UK governments.” She notes further that the Conservative government, under Margaret Thatcher, “used the success of the Chinese community schools to argue that ethnic minorities were better off with ‘self-reliance’ and cut back already limited funding in the local education authorities’ budgets for bilingual classroom assistants. Complementary schools and classes were further marginalised as a result” (Wei 2006, 78).
  • Local authorities continue to make some provision for bilingual classroom assistants, but these are often viewed as a tool for enhancing pupils’ English language ability, rather than for mother tongue maintenance. In other words, policy measures are directed more at improving minority students’ outcomes within the existing school system, rather than through complementary or alternative programs (see, for example, Department for Children, Schools and Families 2007). As Wei (2006, 78) points out, complementary schools and the maintenance of mother tongue language and culture are “seen as a minority concern and were left with ethnic minority communities to deal with themselves.” Moreover, the fact that schools that teach mother tongue education are separate from the mainstream curriculum makes it difficult for them to receive funding (Creese et al. 2006, 24- 25).
  • However, some recent policy shifts have improved access to foreign language instruction in the UK. MIPEX data from 2015 note that in 2008, curriculum requirements pertaining to the learning of an EU language were lifted and schools were able to offer a broader array of foreign languages for their GCSE (Huddleston et al. 2015). There has also been a greater degree of public funding geared toward supplementary schools that offer mother tongue instruction for youth (Ibid).
  • Furthermore, Free Schools – a new type of education academy established in 2010 – have been at the forefront of enhancing bilingual education programs in recent years. Free Schools are state funded but have a greater degree of freedom over programming than most public schools as they are not under the direction of local education authorities. Several Free Schools have offered bilingual programs and foreign language classes in Spanish, German, French, Mandarin, and more (Harris 2013; Mathieu 2018).



Affirmative Action Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0.5 0.5 0.5 1 1


  • The UK’s first Race Relations Act was passed in 1965, but it was not until 1976 that it was expanded to include both direct and indirect discrimination, as well as remedies for infringement. Although the 1976 act permitted positive action measures, such as the provision of services to meet the needs of particular groups (e.g., refugees), this was strengthened in the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000. The amended act applies to public authorities, including governments, schools and the police and gives them a “general duty to promote race equality” (Department for Children, Schools and Families 2010). Public bodies must, as a result, give “due regard” to the need to “eliminate unlawful racial discrimination; and promote equality of opportunity and good relations between people of different racial groups” (Ibid.). Thus, the act goes beyond anti-discrimination initiatives to include more proactive or positive measures. Moreover, while anti-discrimination measures existed prior to the passage of the amended act, it was only after 2000 that the government itself became subject to affirmative action measures.
  • The government has adopted a number of initiatives to address obstacles and disadvantages faced by minorities when it comes to employment. The Race Disparities Audit (Cabinet Office 2018), for example, examined how minorities were treated across various public services, specifically exploring rates of employment and income in the private and public sector. The audit led to a series of interventions and programs that are intended to bolster labour market participation among minorities (see Race Disparity Unit 2019a and 2019b).
  • The Equality Act also came into effect in 2010. It consolidated existing legislation pertaining to discrimination and includes parameters for positive measures to address inequalities, including those based on race and religion.