Undergraduate students could be required to sign contracts upholding the right to free speech, The Times has reported.
The government is reportedly seeking to combat a wave of campus protests, which have resulted in ‘no-platform’ for prominent speakers and academics with controversial views being fired or disciplined.
The contracts have been proposed by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, in a letter to the Office for Students (OfS), which would enforce them.
They would also ask students to refrain from sexist, racist and antisemitic abuse.
In the letter, Mr Williamson wrote: “I want every student to be confident that their institution stands up for free speech and that they will not experience […] harassment, racial abuse, antisemitism.”
I want every student to be confident that their institution stands up for free speech and that they will not experience […] harassment, racial abuse, antisemitism
– Gavin Williamson
It has not been revealed what would happen to individual students or universities if these contracts were broken.
The move comes after a number of high-profile stories in which students sought to ‘no-platform’ or ban controversial speakers.
Both the BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour presenter Jenni Murray and the feminist author Germaine Greer faced protests, from Oxford and Cardiff respectively, because of their views on transgenderism.
In March this year, Cambridge retracted its offer of a two-month visiting fellowship to the controversial Canadian psychology professor Jordan Peterson after student backlash.
Warwick was at the centre of a free speech debate in 2015, when Warwick Students’ Union (SU) banned ex-Muslim activist Maryam Namazie from speaking. After national criticism from high-profile individuals such as Richard Dawkins and Professor Brian Cox, the ban was overturned.
The 2018 Spiked Free Speech University Rankings gave Warwick a red rating for freedom of speech for the fourth year in a row. A red rating denotes institutions that actively censor speech or free expression.
Furthermore, rankings also found that 54% of British universities actively censor speech. 40% were ranked amber, and 6% were ranked green.