Monday, July 12, 2021

Free Speech in Universities

 Back when I was a student those who wanted to suppress free speech had a policy called

"No Platform for Racists and Fascists."

Among the problems with this policy, it wasn't just racists and fascists it was used against. One college  student union in Sunderland even banned their Jewish society and called it an "anti-racist" policy because supposedly "Zionism=racism." I remember taking a trip to Sunderland to protest against this.

Opposition to this was one thing which united Conservative students at the time: I also remember attending a meeting in the House of Commons hosted by Fred Sylvester, then a Conservative MP in Manchester, who tabled an excellent private members bill designed to safeguard free speech in Universities.

The issue is as much if not more a problem today, and so the government has brought forward the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) bill to address it.

Today as the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill has its second reading, the Education Secretary has warned about the chilling effect of free speech being silenced on campus - risking the reputation of our world class universities as champions of academic freedom.

  • There is a growing concern that freedom of speech is being stifled on campus – which means that not all students and staff feel able to express themselves without fear of repercussions. 
  • That is why through the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, the government is introducing stronger legal duties for universities to protect lawful free speech – and making it an essential requirement for public funding and registration.
  • By delivering on our manifesto commitment to strengthen academic freedom, we can safeguard the great traditions of our universities and ensure Britain remains a country where free speech can flourish.

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