Guidance from the University of Sheffield tells lecturers to provide alternatives to subjects including sexuality, mental health, suicide, and torture, when writing assessment papers. Other topics deemed sensitive by the university include rape, disability, HIV/Aids, faith and religion, incest, abortion, and drugs and alcohol. Staff were told to refrain from including “sensitive and controversial issues” in compulsory parts of exams.

It comes after students at the South Yorkshire university last year raised the issue, saying undergraduates were left feeling “distressed and anxious” when their English literature course covered sensitive topics. 

In a letter written by the students’ union mental health society, concerns were raised about a discussion on sexual abuse as part of a module on Restoration literature. 

The society said students should not be put in a position where they would have to “put their own mental health at risk to receive an education”.

In a separate email, the university was told of one female student who “left crying and later had a panic attack” after distressing material was covered in a lecture, according the the Sunday Times. 

Critics have been quick to accuse the university of fostering a culture of “snowflake” students, with one Twitter user saying: “Being upset is part of life! If students cannot deal with these topics in subjects where they might crop up when they should not be studying them.”

Another said: “University is now for closed-minded snowflakes, not people who want to learn.”

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