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Promoting freedom of speech and ensuring safety on campus

A Universities UK spokesperson said:

“Universities are committed to the free exchange of ideas and are the natural place where any lawful ideas can be voiced and debated. This includes the fundamental right of academics, and external speakers, to question national and international policies. Open debate, including the expression of controversial even offensive ideas, must and should be advanced, tested and challenged.”

“But all freedoms have limits imposed by the law, particularly the fundamental legal obligation on universities to secure the safety of staff and students.”

“Recent events at the University of Southampton illustrate how extraordinarily difficult it can be to balance the duty to promote free speech with the duty to protect health and safety, particularly in the context of highly contentious issues where there are real and serious threats to health and safety. But Southampton is not unique in facing this challenge. Universities across the country have to address these issues on a regular basis. The majority of events go ahead with a wide range of views expressed and debated, but occasionally events have to cancelled, sometimes following external advice on security and safety."

“When they are cancelled, invariably opportunities to reschedule are explored so that debates may take place in a safe environment, exactly as the University of Southampton are proposing.”

Key Contacts

Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan

Media Relations Manager
Universities UK

Clara Plackett

Clara Plackett

Press and Social Media Officer
Universities UK

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