Sir Michael Barber, Chair of the Office for Students, comments on the HEPI guide.
Commenting on the publication of Cracking the code: A practical guide for university free speech policies by the Higher Education Policy Institute, Sir Michael Barber, Chair of the Office for Students, said:
'The Office for Students stands for the widest possible definition of free speech. We will never seek to limit freedom of speech within the law, and we will always use our powers to promote rather than restrict it. The HEPI report makes helpful suggestions for how universities might develop and implement policies to ensure they are upholding freedom of speech.
'Education and scholarship are advanced through dialogue and debate. Universities are places where people can encounter challenging and – at times – uncomfortable ideas, sometimes for the first time. This is something which we should encourage, rather than seek to protect students from. Learning how to respond to and discuss diverse opinions and differing views of the world is a fundamental part of a high quality university education.
'Those universities and colleges registering with us are required to demonstrate how they uphold freedom of speech. As I have said before, it is not our job to tell universities precisely how to do this. We respect institutional autonomy and are pleased that HEPI has grasped the initiative in publishing this report. We are also keen to encourage further work by the sector in this area.
'Individual institutions need to develop policies which reflect their own community, values and culture; there will be no single approach that works for all. The Office for Students will work to ensure all registered providers have robust and effective management and governance arrangements in place to protect and promote freedom of speech. Where we have concerns, we will not hesitate to intervene to uphold this fundamental principle.'
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NOTES TO EDITORS
- The Office for Students is the independent regulator for higher education in England. Our aim is to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers.
- Cracking the code: A practical guide for university free speech policies is published by the Higher Education Policy Institute on 19 July 2018.