Director for Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom

01 June 2023

Commenting on the appointment of Professor Arif Ahmed as the first OfS Director for Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom, Chief Executive of the Russell Group Dr Tim Bradshaw said:

“Freedom of speech and academic freedom are principles at the centre of teaching and research at Russell Group universities. The most recent figures show that in 2021/22, universities and colleges in England approved and held over 31,000 speakers or events. Less than 1% of speakers were rejected and in the vast majority of cases this was because of procedural or health and safety reasons. Our universities make every effort to ensure students have the chance to hear and debate diverse views and perspectives, through curricula and as part of the wider educational experience.

“The new free speech law will change the way universities work to protect freedom of speech and academic freedom and Professor Ahmed will have a crucial role to play in ensuring the new system works for students, staff, speakers and universities. We would like to congratulate Professor Ahmed on his appointment and are ready to work with him to discuss guidance and get the implementation of the new Act right.”

Notes to Editors:

  1. Latest figures from the OfS show 31,545 speakers or events were approved by universities in England in 2021/22:
  2. In 2021, the Russell Group published a statement of principles setting out the approach our members take to protecting freedom of speech and academic freedom in teaching, research, and other areas of university activity:

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