Campus Free Speech in the UK
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University is where students should be free to debate and explore ideas – even those with which they disagree.
Recently, there has been a rise in the number of pro-life societies being established at universities across the UK. “Nottingham Students for Life” was initially blocked from affiliating with the Students’ Union on the basis that its views “did not align” with those of the Union. After the prospect of legal proceedings was raised, the decision was reversed and the society was granted affiliation. Pro-life societies at Glasgow University, Strathclyde University, and Aberdeen University experienced similar treatment, but all ultimately succeeded in overturning these decisions after raising free speech concerns.
In 2018, the Joint Committee on Human Rights in Parliament released a report on Freedom of Speech in Universities which criticised the “no-platforming” policies on UK campuses stifling debate around “unpopular” opinions. David Issacs, the Equality and Human Rights Commission Chair, has emphasised that universities should act as “bastions of debate and defenders of expression” and should not be hindering pro-life societies from affiliation simply because students disagree with their views.
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