9 in 10 UK universities restrict free speech, report says

More than 90 per cent of UK universities are restricting free speech, a shocking new report has found.

The Free Speech University Ranking (FSUR), by Spiked magazine, states that 21 universities have banned speakers from attending debates or lectures in the last year.

Twenty universities have also banned the sale of one or more newspaper on their campuses.


According to Spiked, 63.5 per cent of universities “actively censored speech and expression” in the last year.

This represents a sixteen per cent rise on the previous year and an increase of more than 68 per cent since 2015.

‘No-platforming’, where universities or student unions formally ban an individual from speaking, was seen to have increased across the board – with feminist Germaine Greer, Tory MP Eric Pickles and UKIP MP Douglas Carswell among those to have been blacklisted.

’Stifling free speech’

FSUR coordinator Tom Slater noted an increase in censorship by universities themselves as well as student unions, which have endured heavy criticism in recent months:

“Universities are systematically stifling free speech on campus”, he said.

“Students’ unions have been pilloried for censoring ‘transphobic’ speech, and enforcing transgender pronouns. But our research shows that the vast majority of policies in this area stem from universities themselves.

“While students’ unions are significantly more censorious – and deserve all the criticism they get – universities often share and affirm their illiberal, patronising outlook.”


Homosexual rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said the report’s findings indicated a serious predicament for universities.

He told The Independent: “Universities used to be bastions of free speech and open debate. As this report shows, they are increasingly hedging free speech with all kinds of qualifications, making it no longer free.”

At the end of last year, it emerged that pro-life students at a number of UK universities have experienced concerted attacks against them.

Pro-life censorship

At Cardiff University, a petition had been circulating demanding the “Disbandment of ‘Students For Life’”, and accusing the group of ‘exploiting the trauma of abused young women to satisfy their own self-interested political and religious agendas’.

At the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, attempts to gain recognition for a pro-life society have so far failed, with the Students’ Association saying “access to a safe abortion may be a determining factor in whether or not someone is able to continue their studies”.

And at Newcastle University, students put forward a motion to ‘de-ratify’ the universitie’s pro-life group. Thankfully, it was voted down by 63 per cent.

Free speech

Crossbench Peer Baroness Deech has tabled an amendment to the Higher Education and Research Bill seeking to protect free speech.

It states: “All English higher education providers must ensure that their students, staff and invited speakers are able to practise freedom of speech within the law in the provider’s premises, forums and events and must put in place measures to prevent unlawful speech.”

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