Cambridge Prof: ‘Students need to be inoculated against cancel culture’

Free speech training needs to be an “essential part” of university education, a Cambridge professor has said.

Philosophy lecturer Professor Arif Ahmed is set to host sessions at Gonville and Caius College this term, designed to help students understand the importance of tolerating alternative points of view.

Prof Ahmed was criticised recently by Caius’ Master, Prof Pippa Rogerson, for inviting gender-critical author Helen Joyce to speak at the College. Sociology Prof Manali Desai apologised to students for any “distress” caused by a faculty email advertising the event.


Prof Arif told The Daily Telegraph: “Whatever subject you are studying, it is an essential part of university education that you understand the need for tolerance of a wide range of views, even ones that you find shocking or offensive.”

He added: “As we have seen recently there are also many academics who don’t understand the importance of tolerating views that they find offensive. It may be that similar training is necessary for academics – as much as it horrifies me to say that.”

In a subsequent interview on the newspaper’s podcast, Planet Normal, the free speech campaigner suggested students should be told in Fresher’s Week, “we know you are adults, it’s not school anymore. You have to make your own mind up about things.

“And you’ll come across people who have views you’ll find shocking and offensive and disturbing, and the way to engage with them at university is not to shut them down and not to hide from them”.


A recent report from the Higher Education Policy Institute found that fears of a backlash are causing university students to avoid inviting speakers with less popular views onto campus.

The paper highlighted instances of ‘quiet no-platforming’ of speakers by student organisers over fears of opposition and intimidation.

And in September, research carried out at King’s College London revealed that UK students are increasingly concerned that free speech is at risk in their universities.

Also see:

Street protestor with megaphone

‘Authoritarian’ Cambridge Uni free speech clause amended following landslide votes

Gender-critical prof quits after campaign of abuse by trans activists

Sharp rise in rejected speakers on campuses raises free speech concerns

Oxford college run by former Stonewall chairman apologises for axing Christian event

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