Free speech and academic freedom at Nottingham – statement ratified

June 17th, 2021

Following detailed consultation with staff and consideration at Senate, the University’s new statement on Free Speech and Academic Freedom has been ratified by Senate.

The statement underscores a continued commitment to promote freedom of speech and allow for robust and civil debate within the law, helping students learn through debate and exposure to new ideas, while providing a supportive environment and infrastructure for them to ensure their wellbeing.

Academic freedom is also central to the statement, stressing that, whenever possible, controversial ideas should be subject to questioning and challenged by evidence and reason. It also asserts that the University is “not a public square,” meaning that we are not obliged to provide a platform to those with no relevant expertise or who espouse palpable falsehoods.

The statement intends to be a living document that the University community as a whole owns and stands by and will be routinely reviewed in the light of experience and changing legislation.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Shearer West said:

“The statement on free speech and academic freedom is the result of extremely diligent work by members of our academic and professional services community, endorsed by the University’s Senate, and I congratulate the working group on its development.

“Nottingham has a long and proud history of supporting free speech over many years and this statement will aid us all in both continuing our tradition and addressing points of contention that will undoubtedly arise in the future.

“I am confident that Nottingham will remain a university where new ideas are proposed, received wisdom is tested and disagreements are conducted with civility and respect, underpinned by this statement which reflects the values set out by our community in the University Strategy.”

The Chair of the Free Speech Working Group, Registrar Dr Paul Greatrix, has placed on record his sincere thanks to the members who development the statement: Professor Marko Milanovic, Professor of Public International Law, School of Law; Dr Zachary Hoskins, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy; University General Counsel, Kate Gallagher; Campus Life Director, Andy Winter; and Students’ Union Development Officer, Madeleine Fox.


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