Free speech, academic freedom, and diversity of viewpoint are vital to a free and tolerant society. They are under serious threat at our universities and other Higher Education Providers (together, “HEPs”), which is an evolving disaster for academics and students – and for our society.
It is, though, clear that the extent and onerous nature of the legal requirements are insufficiently appreciated by universities, and poorly complied with. BFSP has yet to see a statement of the law and its impact which gets close to reflecting the full impact of what is required. BFSP is going to set this right.
A group of senior lawyers and academics is developing a lengthy Statement for BFSP of best free speech practice in respect of English HEPs, reflecting the law as it is evolving, with the current Higher Education (Free Speech) Bill and the Forstater, Allison Bailey and Harry Miller cases effecting huge changes to the legal landscape. The statement will set out the relevant legal requirements and the actions, policies and practices which are required of relevant institutions to give the law – and its spirit – proper effect. We hope that it will focus universities’ minds on quite how onerous their legal obligations actually are – and, given that they that will be having to think carefully about their obligations in the context of the changing law, help reset their understanding of what is required of them.
We intend to produce equivalent statements in respect of HEPs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.