Ministers announce new code to stop universities shutting down free speech

Posted On: 
3rd May 2018

The Government is to begin drawing up a new code which aims to tackle "chilling" attempts to stop people from expressing their views on university grounds.

Some critics have warned the problem is being overblown
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Universities Minister Sam Gyimah will tell campuses to clamp down on "institutional hostility" to views that are seen as unfashionable or unpopular.

It comes amid increasing fears that speakers are being “no-platformed” because people disagree with their views, and that “safe spaces” are being exploited to silence dissent.

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“A society in which people feel they have a legitimate right to stop someone expressing their views on campus simply because they are unfashionable or unpopular is rather chilling,” Mr Gyimah said ahead of today’s announcement.

“There is a risk that overzealous interpretation of a dizzying variety of rules is acting as a brake on legal free speech on campus.”

The policy will see ministers work with higher education leaders sector to clarify the rules and regulations at events and “to prevent bureaucrats or wreckers on campus from exploiting gaps for their own ends.”

Mr Gyimah confirmed that new universities regulator the Office for Students - which came into being last month following a furious row over the appointment of journalist Toby Young to its board - could name and shame or fine institutions for failing to uphold the rules.

The controversial move marks the biggest intervention from Government on the issue in more than thirty years, but some critics have warned the problem is being overblown.

Chief executive of Universities UK, Alistair Jarvis, said: “Tens of thousands of speaking events are put on every year across the country. The majority pass without incident.

“A small number of flashpoints do occasionally occur, on contentious or controversial issues, but universities do all they can to protect free speech so events continue.”