Universities minister: one set of guidelines on free speech needed

May 3, 2018 by

Sam Gyimah says rules now let ‘bureaucrats or wreckers on campus’ stop discussion

The UK’s complex tangle of regulations governing free speech on university campuses should be replaced by one clear set of guidelines for both students and institutions, according to the universities minister.

In a speech at a closed-door seminar on free speech on campus, the minister, Sam Gyimah, will suggest the Department for Education oversees the creation of the first new set of guidelines – since the free speech duty was first introduced in 1986 – to “provide clarity”.

The current web of rules allows “bureaucrats or wreckers on campus” to block discussion of unfashionable views, according to Gyimah. He blames the complexity for the rise in safe spaces and no-platform policies.

“A society in which people feel they have a legitimate right to stop someone expressing their views on campus simply because they are unfashionable or unpopular is rather chilling,” the minister will say. “There is a risk that overzealous interpretation of a dizzying variety of rules is acting as a brake on legal free speech on campus.”

Among the guests invited to the seminar are Matt Collins, the Home Office’s director of Prevent, a programme to tackle extremism and radicalisation, and Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission.

Gyimah’s idea would bind both students and universities to a common code of practice on free speech, although there appears to be little enthusiasm for this among either university or student leaders.

Source: Universities minister: one set of guidelines on free speech needed | Education | The Guardian

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