Educational Institutions: Freedom of Expression

Department for Education written question – answered on 12th March 2019.

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Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Conservative, Romford

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to ensure the maintenance of freedom of expression in publicly funded educational establishments.

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Vice-Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education)

Free speech plays a vital and important role in our society, and universities should be places where students are exposed to a range of issues, however controversial, and are encouraged to debate and challenge them.

The government, with the support of key stakeholders in the higher education sector, has worked alongside the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to produce the recently published Freedom of Expression guidance. This guidance can be found at: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/20150318_foe_legal_framework_guidance_revised_final.pdf. The guidance will enable universities and student unions to understand their obligations for protecting and supporting free speech. The EHRC will continue to maintain this guidance to ensure it remains relevant and accessible to the whole sector.

The Office for Students (OfS) will also have an important role to play in championing free speech and promoting good practice. A new public interest principle relating to free speech has been built into the OfS regulatory framework.

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