Russell Group response to Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill

12 May 2021

In response to the Government’s Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, which will bring in new measures to strengthen free speech and academic freedom at universities in England, a Russell Group spokesperson said:

“Our universities have always protected the right to have free and open discussion of challenging or controversial ideas. Our recent statement of principles on free speech underlined our commitment to protect those ideals.

“We will always work constructively with Government to uphold the legal protections already in place and if it feels it is necessary to enhance them further. However, it is vital that any further changes or additions to an already complex system are proportionate, protect university autonomy and avoid creating unnecessary or burdensome bureaucracy.”

Notes

 - The Russell Group statement of principles setting out how its universities protect freedom of speech can be found here.
 - A recent King’s College London study found 81% of students think free speech is more important than ever.
 - 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, with 4 of these cancellations being the result of a failure to meet administrative requirements.
 - 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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