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Top universities vow to safeguard free speech

Religious Liberty
22 April 2021
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Top universities in the UK have pledged to protect free speech following concerns about censorship and ‘no-platforming’ on campuses.

The Russell Group, which represents 24 of the most prestigious UK universities, has said its members will continue to safeguard academic freedom and free speech.

A statement from the organisation, backed by vice-chancellors at institutions including Oxford and Cambridge, says:

“Facilitating an environment where all students and staff are able to inquire, study, and discuss is a responsibility our universities take extremely seriously. Russell Group universities work closely with staff, students’ unions and other organisations to defend and maintain freedom of expression on campus."

It continues: “Our universities provide a wide range of fora where free and frank intellectual exchanges take place and the diverse views of individuals are tolerated, whilst also assuring the safety of students, staff and members of the public.”

Russell Group universities work closely with staff, students’ unions and other organisations to defend and maintain freedom of expression on campus.
Russell Group statement

In February, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced a series of proposals to strengthen academic freedom at universities in England, including the appointment of a “free speech champion” who will investigate potential infringements.

Under the plans, a new free speech condition would be placed on universities for them to be registered in England and access public funding. The Office for Students regulator would have the power to impose fines on institutions who trample upon free speech.

CARE’s Jamie Gillies welcomed the step:

“Freedom of speech and expression – fundamental rights – have come under an astonishing attack in recent years, particularly in universities, exactly the kind of institutions where free, open debate is to be encouraged. And Christians are often silenced due to the countercultural nature of their views on matters such as life and sexual ethics.

“It is a welcome announcement today from the Russell Group and it is good to see strong action by the government to ensure that universities are held accountable. We hope that educational settings will return to their historic ethos and allow robust criticism and debate on all issues in years ahead.”
Jamie Gillies, Senior Press Officer at CARE and free speech campaigner

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Religious Liberty

The right to freedom of religion or belief is a fundamental human right. We are campaigning to safeguard these freedoms in our society.

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