Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill 2021 Briefing

29 November 2021

Freedom of speech, together with academic freedom, anchors the commitment of our universities to the open and rigourous contestation of ideas. These principles are fundamental to their public purpose as academic institutions advancing research and education.

The Government's Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill 2021 will change the way that universities and students' unions work to protect freedom of speech and academic freedom across the higher education sector.

The importance of free speech and academic freedom means it is right that we look closely at areas where legal protections can be improved. However, it is crucial any changes do not undermine the ability of universities and students’ unions to prevent harassment or comply fully with counterterrorism legislation while acting to protect free speech.

The Russell Group supports the intention behind the Government's Bill, which is set to reach the House of Lords shortly. However, in a number of areas there are significant practical and legal concerns over the impact the reforms could have on universities and student unions.

Carefully drafted amendments to the legislation could help avoid potential unintended consequences, ensure new regulations and legal actions are proportionate, and that they deliver fully on protecting free speech and academic freedom without leading to unnecessary increases in red tape.

Find out more in our latest briefing:

Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill 2021 Briefing

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