Freedom of Speech Policy

1 Principles

1.1 The purpose of this document is to explain the principles behind the University’s policy on external speakers (see the University’s External Speakers Policy).

1.2 Under the Education Act (1986), the Governing Council of the University is required to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for the University’s members, employees and students, and for visiting speakers. Enshrined within the Articles of Association is the statement that “Academic Staff have freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom, and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing employment status or privileges”.

1.3 Under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 the Governing Council of the University is required to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.

1.4 The University is an academic community of staff and students. Central to the concept of academic community is the ability of all its members to freely challenge prevailing orthodoxies, query the positions and views of others, and put forward views that may be understood by others as radical.

1.5 The University will ensure that the use of its premises is not denied on grounds connected with the beliefs, views, policies or objectives of an individual or group of individuals, as long as such use is at all times within the law.

1.6 The University has a duty to prevent unlawful discrimination and promote equality of opportunity, and to maintain safety and good order on its premises.

1.7 The University’s duty as outlined in 1.5 should not normally conflict with the freedom of expression of its community. Tolerance and respect for opposing viewpoints are entirely compatible with the fostering of good relations, and are integral aspects of University culture.

1.8 It is a right of the University’s members, employees and students to work and study unhindered by hostility and intimidation.

2 The scope of this policy

This policy applies to:

2.1 All members of the University community (whether or not employed by the University), which includes students, staff (including agency staff and contractors), the Students’ Union, the Governing Council, and any person or group who wishes to hold an event that is in any way affiliated with the University.

2.2 All events or meetings (‘Events’) that occur on University premises, or that occur off premises but that are affiliated with or otherwise endorsed by the University.

2.3 Members of the University community in relation to their use of the Internet, including social media. Due consideration shall also be given to the University’s IT Acceptable Use Policy.

2.4 External speakers. For further information, see the University’s External Speakers Policy.

3 Reporting

3.1 Any breach of this policy may result in disciplinary action under the relevant procedure, the withdrawal of approval for the relevant Event, or any other action deemed to be appropriate.

3.2 Where an individual feels that this freedom of speech policy has been breached, a complaint may be lodged through the Complaints Procedure.

3.3 In instances where the actions of an external speaker, in respect of this University policy or any other, may constitute a breach of criminal law, the University will assist the prosecuting authorities as appropriate in line with its Data Security Policy.

4 Related policies and guidance

Author(s): DH/JH

Area: Executive


Date of Equality Analysis: April 2016

Last approval date GC: 12 April 2019

Implementation date: August 2016

Next review date: April 2021