Today’s blog looks at freedom of speech at universities and Women and Equalities Minister Justine Greening winning a top accolade at the Pink News awards.
Office for Students
Today, Thursday, 19 October we launched a consultation for the regulatory framework of the Office for Students (OfS). The purpose of the consultation is primarily to help establish how the OfS, the new regulator for English higher education, will undertake its main functions.
As part of this announcement, Universities Minister Jo Johnson gave an exclusive interview to the Times where he announced that universities must pledge to uphold free speech on campus and that any universities that failed to protect freedom of speech could be fined, suspended or deregistered by the new OfS. This ran on the front page of the Times and was covered by The Sun (p. 9) and Guardian online, Telegraph online and Mail online.
The minister has asked the OfS to focus on ensuring institutions recognise the importance of freedom of speech and the role it plays in ensuring open debate. The aim is to ensure students are exposed to a wide range of issues and ideas in a safe environment without fear of censorship, rebuke or reprisal.
Universities Minister Jo Johnson said:
Free speech is one of the foundations on which our higher education tradition is built. It goes to the heart of our democratic values and is a principle I know universities hold dear.
I know there is good practice out there, and am proud that some of our university leaders and academics have publicly defended free speech. But there are still examples of censorship where groups have sought to stifle those who do not agree with them.
This is why I want the OfS to work with universities to encourage a culture of openness and debate and ensure that those with different backgrounds or perspectives can flourish in a higher education environment.
Pink News Awards
On Wednesday, 18 October Pink News held its annual award ceremony, celebrating the contributions of politicians, entertainers, businesses, campaigners and community groups to improving LGBT+ life in the UK and beyond.
The event was addressed by all the major party leaders and the Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities Justine Greening won the award for Politician of the Year jointly with Hannah Bardell from the SNP. Addressing the audience, Justine Greening outlined that this country’s greatest asset is its people and that ‘you can only be your best if you can be yourself’. A write up of the evening can be seen on the Pink News site.
For more information on our launch of the consultation for the Office for Students please see here.