Freedom of speech

What can we do?

Currently, the OfS regulates matters relating to free speech and academic freedom through the conditions of registration concerning management and governance (the ‘E conditions’) and the relevant public interest governance principles that underpin those conditions.

Principle VII on freedom of speech states:

‘The governing body takes such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured within the provider.’

Principle I on academic freedom states:

‘Academic staff at an English higher education provider 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 their jobs or privileges they may have at the provider.’

For more about these requirements see our regulatory framework.

What do these requirements mean?

In brief, our existing requirements mean that the governing documents of a university or college must uphold the principles on freedom of speech and academic freedom.

The university or college must also have adequate and effective management and governance arrangements to deliver those principles in practice.

The government has introduced new legislation that will strengthen the OfS’s regulatory role.

Read our insight brief on free speech for more about our current approach.

Published 13 September 2023

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