A number of top universities are among the worst in the UK for upholding freedom of speech.
According to a new report by think-tank Civitas, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge are in the ‘red’ category for free speech, following instances of ‘no-platforming’ and the rise of ‘cancel culture’.
Other top universities, such as Imperial College London, University College London and the University of St Andrews, are also listed among the ‘most restrictive’ institutions.
Best and worst
Civitas’s research spans the last three years at all of the UK’s universities.
It analyses university and student union policies on a range of issues, alongside any restrictions they may have placed on academic freedom during that period, and gives each an overall censorship score.
Solent University in Southampton came out best with a score of zero, with London Business School a close second on 37. Meanwhile, the University of East Anglia (UEA), University of Brighton and Ulster University were rated as the most restrictive of all, with East Anglia racking up a censorship score of 778.
Student Union officials at UEA made headlines in 2015 when they accused a Tex-Mex restaurant of ‘cultural appropriation’ for handing out sombreros in an attempt to drum up business.
However, the University of Cambridge recently saw its proposed policy to restrict free speech shot down.
In its plan to alter the existing statement on freedom of speech, the University said people must be “respectful” of “differing opinions” and “diverse identities”.
However, more than 100 scholars and senior staff quickly objected, saying the “authoritarian” proposals could threaten academic freedom. Their amendment to change the phrase ‘respectful of’ to ‘tolerate’ was voted on by members of the University’s governing body and won “by a landslide”.
This followed a series of restrictions and instances of no-platforming, including the university’s decision to rescind an offer of a visiting fellowship to Professor Jordan Peterson, following complaints from students in March 2019.
And last October, students at Clare College tried to have a porter removed from his job after he refused to endorse radical gender ideology.