Universities have applied trigger warnings to more than 1,000 texts and started removing others from reading lists to protect students from ‘challenging’ content.
An investigation has revealed ten institutions – including three from the elite Russell Group – have either withdrawn books or made them optional in case they harm undergraduates.
Affected texts include 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, and August Strindberg’s classic play Miss Julie.
The work of authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie have been given trigger warnings.
Almost 300 freedom of information requests were sent by The Times to all 140 UK universities asking about trigger warnings and removal of texts due to content concerns.
Essex and Sussex universities admitted to pulling books for this reason – believed to be the first time it has happened at British institutions.
The Underground Railroad has been ‘removed permanently’ from an Essex University course reading list because of its ‘graphic description of violence and abuse of slavery’.
But a spokesman insisted the book was still available in the library and remained an option for future lists.