Students warned over record toll of 'cancelled' speakers

Students warned over record toll of 'cancelled' speakers

July 15, 2022

Students are warned over record toll of ‘cancelled’ speakers as watchdog threatens to intervene

  • Students watchdog threatened to ‘intervene’ where ‘lawful views are stifled’ 
  • In 2020-21, 193 events or speakers were refused – double the previous year
  • Universities minister Andrea Jenkyns warns of ‘chilling effect of censorship’ 
  • Office for Students says ‘controversial’ topics must be open to free debate

Woke students blocked a record number of speakers and events at universities last year amid a steep rise in ‘no-platforming’.

Last night, the Office for Students (OfS), the watchdog, threatened to ‘intervene’ where ‘lawful views are being stifled’.

In 2020-21 there were 193 refusals of events or speakers – more than double the 94 the previous year. 

There have been student campaigns to stop Christians, Conservatives, feminists and Israeli politicians speaking on campuses.

Andrea Jenkyns, the universities minister, said the figures were ‘concerning’ and warned of the ‘chilling effect of censorship’. 

Universities minister Andrea Jenkyns has warned of the ‘chilling effect of censorship’ after students blocked a record number of speakers and events at universities last year

Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘Universities have been colonised by an Empire of Wokeness’, and added that they are ‘moving our society into a new Dark Age’.

The Government is trying to strengthen free speech laws with new legislation going through Parliament. 

Susan Lapworth, head of the OfS, said ‘offensive or controversial’ topics must be open to free debate. 

‘We are willing to intervene where we have concerns this may not be the case in this fundamentally important area,’ she said.

It comes amid growing reports that universities and student unions are stopping events from going ahead over fears unfashionable views may be expressed.

In recent years there have been student campaigns to stop Christians, Conservatives, feminists and Israeli politicians speaking on campuses.

Last night Miss Jenkyns said: ‘Universities and colleges must be places that champion debate and diversity of thought and this government has warned of the chilling effect of censorship on our campuses.

‘While we know that the pandemic made it difficult for many organisations to arrange speaking events, this sharp rise in rejected speakers is very concerning.’

Protestors gathered in Library Square at Sussex University to rally against Professor Kathleen Stock last year

In total last year, 19,407 events were held by universities with external speakers – meaning 99 per cent went ahead as planned.

The Left-wing University and College Union (UCU), which represents lecturers, said it did not recognise a free speech problem.

General secretary Jo Grady said: ‘The Tory narrative of a free speech crisis caused by oversensitive students is totally at odds with the evidence.’

She accused the government of ‘whipping up a phony culture war’ and claimed it was making ‘authoritarian interventions in campus life’.

The data also showed how many incidents had to be referred to Prevent, the government’s counter-terrorism programme.

A total of 47 cases were formally referred to external Prevent agencies, including 15 for being ‘extreme right-wing radicalisation’ and 14 for being ‘Islamist radicalisation’.

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