'There's no major university free speech issue as Gavin Williamson suggests'

16 February 2021, 20:18

By Sam Sholli

Free speech is not a major issue on university campuses as Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is suggesting, an academic has told LBC.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has warned against a "chilling effect" of "unacceptable silencing and censoring" on university campuses.

He has also announced a series of proposals concerning universities in England, including the appointment of a "free speech champion" who will investigate potential infringements, such as no-platforming speakers or dismissal of academics.

Under Mr Williamson's plan, a new free speech condition would be placed on universities for them to be registered in England and access public funding, and the Office for Students (OfS) regulator would have the power to impose fines on institutions if they breached the condition.

Maya Goodfellow, an academic at the University of Sheffield, told LBC: "Obviously free speech is really important.

"I work in a university and when I've taught, like all of my colleagues, what I've been focussed on is encouraging debate in the classroom [and] exploring different schools of thought.

"But I do think that this is a confected row. We have so many pieces of legislation already on free speech in universities..."

She added: "I think we do need to cherish free speech and think about the importance of free speech and look at individual cases.

"But I don't think that this is the widespread major issue on university campuses that Gavin Williamson is suggesting."