Russell Group response to OfS statement on freedom of speech

15 December 2022

In response to comments from the Office for Students (OfS) chief executive Susan Lapworth on upholding freedom of speech, Russell Group Head of Policy Dr Hollie Chandler said:

"The OfS is right to highlight the importance of free speech and academic freedom and university leaders are already playing an active role in upholding these values on campuses around the UK. Last year, senior leaders across the Russell Group reiterated their commitment to defending and maintaining free speech in a joint statement which underlined this as a core value at the heart of universities’ purpose as academic institutions.

"In lectures, seminars and student-led events, young people are exposed to a wide range of competing views and perspectives that help broaden their understanding of both their course of study and the world around them. Diversity of opinion, rigorous debate and expression through protest are protected by robust codes of practice and universities balance free speech requirements with binding legal obligations under the Equality Act and other legislation.

"Given the importance of free speech, it is right that we keep protections under review. But regulatory action needs to be taken on the basis of accurate data rather than partial analysis or inflammatory stories. Contrary to some media reports, the overwhelming majority of events featuring controversial speakers go ahead successfully. As the OfS takes on additional free speech responsibilities, its independence and ability to make impartial judgements will be critical to ensure students, staff and the sector more broadly have confidence in its approach.” 

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