Russell Group responds to free speech measures

16 February 2021

In response to the Government’s proposed measures to strengthen free speech and academic freedom at universities in England, a Russell Group spokesperson said:

“Our universities are committed to protecting free speech on campus. Robust academic debate and the opportunity to engage with challenging ideas are fundamental to the educational experience at UK universities.

 “It is important that proposals in this Government policy paper, if taken forward, are evidence-based and proportionate, with due care taken to ensure academic freedom and institutional autonomy. Government should support existing work by universities and students’ unions to defend and maintain freedom of expression on campus, rather than adding unnecessary and burdensome bureaucracy.

“Evidence shows the overwhelming majority of speaker events go ahead, but it is right that we are constantly vigilant to threats to campus free speech. We support efforts to help universities and students’ unions protect free expression and broaden the range of views students are exposed to, including recent student-led proposals to extend the existing legal duty to protect free speech to students’ unions.”

 Notes to editors:

  • Further details of the student-led proposals to champion free speech on campus published in February 2021 can be found here.
  • A Wonkhe survey of 61 university students’ unions in December 2020 found that in 2019-20, 6 events from almost 10,000 involving an external speaker (0.06%) were cancelled.
  • OfS figures for the wider university sector in England show that of 59,574 events organised with an external speaker, 53 were not approved (0.09%).


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