We protect and uphold free speech in higher education by making sure universities and colleges follow our regulatory framework. We also use our overview of the higher education sector to encourage effective practice.
Regulating free speech
We are the independent regulator of higher education in England. This means that universities and colleges must register with us, if they want to do certain things, like recruit students who can take out publicly funded loans.
See more about who registers with the OfS.
Registered universities and colleges must comply with our regulatory framework. This framework, among other conditions, sets out standards for the way universities and colleges are managed and governed. And one of these ‘public interest governance principles’ is freedom of speech.
This means that when a university or college registers with us, we will make sure its governing documents uphold freedom of speech. It also means that if we find that a registered provider is not meeting these standards, we can intervene and apply sanctions.
We will only intervene when there is clear evidence of a threat to free speech. Should an issue arise, we will consider whether:
- the university or college’s processes are good enough to uphold free speech
- they have followed these processes
- they are dealing with any concerns responsibly
- there is a pattern to any complaints that have been made.
We can apply different sanctions. But we hope that we will not have to use them and would only do so after very careful consideration.
As a regulator, we have an overview of the whole higher education sector in England. Which means we are in a unique position to gather examples of effective practice.
In this role, we will shine a spotlight on any issues to help universities and colleges adopt an effective approach to freedom of speech and expression.