Universities Minister to urge 'open minds' as campuses report friction rise

Posted on Dec 26 2017 - 10:41am by admin

In a keynote speech, Universities Minister Jo Johnson will say they must be places that “open minds, not close them”, where ideas can be challenged.

His call comes amid concerns that universities and student groups have become too accustomed to banning controversial speakers under “safe space” policies to avoid causing offence.

Some campuses have reported rises in anti-Semitism and tensions over issues such as Brexit.

There have also been campaigns to remove statues and names commemorating unpopular figures including British imperialist Cecil Rhodes.

Mr Johnson, younger brother of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, today addresses the Limmud festival of Jewish learning and culture, taking place at Pendigo Lake, Birmingham.

Mr Johnson, who in October said new watchdog the Office for Students could fine universities which failed to uphold freedom of speech, is due to say: “In universities in America, and worryingly in the UK, we have seen examples of groups seeking to stifle those who do not agree with them.

“We must not allow this to happen. Young people should have the resilience and confidence to challenge controversial opinions and take part in open, frank and rigorous discussions.”

He will add there are plans to make colleges which receive public money show their governance is “consistent with the principle of free speech”.

Universities UK chief executive Alistair Jarvis said that colleges were “absolutely committed” to promoting free speech.

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