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Universities: Freedom of Expression

Department for Education written question – answered on 16th January 2020.

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Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to promote freedom of speech on campuses at universities.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

This government will ensure that our universities are places where free speech can thrive and will strengthen academic freedoms.

The freedom to express views openly, challenge ideas and engage in robust debate is crucial to the student experience and to democracy. Individuals should never be in a position where they can be stopped from, or are made to feel inhibited in, expressing an opinion perfectly lawfully.

The government worked alongside the Equalities and Human Rights Commission which published new guidance in February 2019 on freedom of speech in higher education to support higher education providers and students’ unions in delivering their duties.

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

The government will be looking closely at how well higher education providers are meeting these obligations and will consider whether further action is needed, working with a range of partners.

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