Free speech and debate are being shut down as universities censor courses, lecturers and speakers, while students censor each other, new research has shown.
The Free Speech University Rankings (FSUR) show that more than half of universities actively censor free speech and ideas.
Spiked magazine, the organisation behind the research, said that “policies dictating what can and can’t be said on campus are still becoming more severe in many areas”.
It pointed to the 46 per cent of institutions which restrict discussion on transsexualism, with some banning ‘transphobic propaganda’ outright, while others attempt to rid the curriculum of ‘transphobic material’.
At the University of Bath, men and women who are transitioning are allowed to access changing rooms “according to the gender in which they present” while Sheffield’s Students’ Union has adopted a “‘zero-tolerance’ approach to sexist, racist, LGBT+phobic, and ableist speech and literature”.
Spiked’s Deputy Editor Tom Slater said: “In some of our most esteemed universities, supposed citadels of free thinking and scientific endeavour, administrations are demanding that debate about transgenderism be shut down and courses be cleansed of un-PC material.
“How any course about, say, biology, can coexist with this is unfathomable.”
The report also highlighted the level of “thoroughly intolerant” student activism, which has seen students’ unions remain far more likely than universities to censor others for the fourth year running.
Anthony Glees, a Professor of Politics at the University of Buckingham, said it was “outrageous” for universities to impose rules about what lecturers can say about transgenderism.
He added that it risked breaching the 1988 Education Reform Act, which guarantees academic freedom.
Concluding Spiked’s editorial, Slater said the way to change the cultural problem of censorship in universities was to change minds, adding “we need to defeat the patronising argument that censorship must be done for our own good”.
Last year, the FSUR showed a marked increase in ‘no-platforming’, where universities or student unions formally ban an individual from speaking.
Feminist Germaine Greer, and the then MPs Eric Pickles and Douglas Carswell were among those to have been blacklisted as universities were accused of “systematically stifling free speech on campus”.