OXFORD University has apologised for a newsletter in which it said avoiding eye contact could be racist behaviour. 

The institution's Equality and Diversity Unit advised that avoiding eye contact could be a 'racial micro-aggression', which can lead to 'mental ill-health'.

Earlier this evening the University apologised on Twitter saying it 'made a mistake' and did not take into account other reasons for difference in eye contact such as disability.

It said: "We are sorry that we took no account of other reasons for difference in eye contact and social interaction, including disability.

"Oxford deeply values and works hard to support students and staff with disabilities, including those with autism or social anxiety disorder.

"We made a mistake. Our newsletter was too brief to deal adequately and sensibly with the issue."

The newsletter also warned that other examples of 'everyday racism' could include asking someone where they are 'originally' from.

It also warned against jokes drawing attention to someone's accent.

It said: "Sometimes called "micro-aggressions", subtle, everyday racism can appear trivial.

"But repeated micro-aggressions can be tiring and alienating (and can lead to mental ill-health."

It then listed three examples.

Not making eye contact or speaking directly to people

Not believing someone is British ('Where are you from? No, I mean originally...')

'Jokes' drawing attention to someone's difference, their accent or nationality

It added: "Some people who do these things may be entirely well-meaning and would be mortified to realise they had caused offence.

"But this is of little consequence if a possible effect of their words or actions is to suggest to people they may fulfil a negative stereotype, or do not belong."