Under the law universities and colleges have responsibilities in the area of free speech. If we regulate them, they must also make sure they follow specific regulations.
What does the law say?
- Education Act 1986
English and Welsh universities must protect freedom of speech within the law under section 43 (No. 2) of the 1986 Education Act. This requires them to publish a Code of Practice, which sets out the procedures their members, students and employees should follow to uphold free speech. Lawful free speech should never be prevented or inhibited on campus.
They must also protect freedom of speech across the campus. This includes on student union premises, even if these are off-campus and/or owned by the students’ union.
- European Convention on Human Rights
All universities and colleges must also comply with the right to freedom of expression (Article 10) and the right to freedom of assembly and association (Article 11) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR is incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998.
- Higher Education and Research Act 2017
The Higher Education and Research Act 2017 (HERA) makes it clear that all universities and colleges which register with the Office for Students must uphold the existing laws around freedom of speech. Where they are registered, universities and colleges must follow our regulatory framework.
Under the framework the governing bodies of registered universities and colleges should take ‘such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured within the provider.’