Higher education minister Jo Johnson has accused some student campaigners of trying to stifle debate as he revealed plans for the newly created Office for Students to be able to fire or suspend universities that fail to protect freedom of speech on campuses.
The Universities Minister warned that universities should promote free speech in order to “open minds, not close them”.
Jo Johnson also expressed his belief that students should have the ‘resilience and confidence’ to challenge controversial opinions, rather than being shielded from opposing views under the banner of ‘no-platforming’ or ‘safe spaces’.
His speech at the Limmud Festival in Birmingham was focused on freedom of speech, and he also said the following in an interview with LBC:
“It is important to put it in context. Generally speaking our universities are homes to free speech, the issue is there are pockets of erosion of this core principle.
“We see it in no-platforming, safe spaces, banned words, the removal of books from libraries and so forth.
“It’s being nibbled away at at the margins, it’s important we take a stand now because this could become a slippery road that gravely compromises our university system and testing and challenging ideas.
“It’s about making sure we have freedom of speech within the law, they’re there to inhibit speech that incites religious or racial hatred, or incited hatred on the grounds of someone’s sexual orientation.
“We’re making sure that legal free speech is properly promoted at our universities.”