Russell Group and U15 collaborate to protect free speech

14 July 2021

Leading universities in the UK and Germany have met to enhance cross-border collaboration to protect free speech and academic freedom. The Russell Group and U15 group of research-intensive universities in Germany have committed to sharing best practice and experiences on academic freedom and free speech issues.

This initiative follows the recent joint statement from Russell Group universities underlining their commitment to creating an academic environment that has the open and rigorous contestation of ideas at its centre.

The announcement was made ahead of the return of the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) 2021 Bill to the House of Commons on 12 July.

Commenting, Chief Executive of the Russell Group Dr Tim Bradshaw said:

"The UK is not the only country where questions over how we can best protect free speech are being asked and it is right that we work together with our friends and colleagues in other parts of the world to share best practice and learn from each other.

“Whether we are talking about how we can ensure universities support a range of speakers, address security concerns, improve internal processes or support students' unions, this joint work will help ensure opportunities to do better are not missed.

"It has been helpful to hear how such issues resonate across borders and how important work is being done by universities in both countries to support a culture of tolerance and open debate."

Jan Wöpking, Executive Director of the German U15 added:

“Just as international collaboration is helping drive advances in research, it can help ensure we are doing everything we can to continue to protect academic freedom. While the legal situation around these issues is different in Germany to that in the UK, our universities are nevertheless dealing with similar challenges.

"We are looking forward to collaborating on this with the Russell Group. The open exchange of ideas is vital for all our universities and an essential part of the educational experience they provide.”