Dr Michael Spence, UCL President & Provost spoke about the importance of both academic freedom and freedom of speech in higher education at a parliamentary panel on 14 March.
The panel event ’Promoting freedom of speech in higher education’ was run by The All-Party Parliamentary University Group. Dr Spence described his view that universities should provide a forum for debate, but not take positions themselves on issues that do not directly impact them. He also spoke about the vital role universities play in supporting students and the wider community to ’disagree well’ on difficult topics, a conversation that will be an increasing priority to UCL over the coming months. In doing so he underlined UCL commitments to do so in UCL’s Strategic Plan and our Student Life Strategy (p16).
Dr Spence was joined on the panel by the chair Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge, Susan Lapworth, CEO of the Office for Students and Akua Reindorf KC, Commissioner (Equality and Human Rights Commission) and Barrister at Cloisters. The event was attended by a number of MPs and members of the House of Lords along with higher education sector leaders.
The panel included a lively discussion on the challenges universities face in handling sensitive ’culture war’ issues and that are posted by the Government’s new Freedom of Speech Bill.
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