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Survey finds 65% of students believe free speech exists at UK universities

As the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill is currently being worked on in the House of Lords, a King’s College London (KCL) survey reported that “65% of students believe their campuses are already places of free speech and robust debate.”

In a survey of 1500 students nationally, KCL found that despite the growing belief among some that free speech is restricted on campus, many still believed that universities protect free speech rights.

Statistics show that 1 in 4 students were aware of incidents of free speech being regulated, which is double the amount from 2019. 32% reported that they hadn’t heard of any such incidents, which is significantly less than the 44% detailed three years ago.

Bobby Duffy, the director of KCL’s Policy Institute, stated that whilst a large number of students still believe their free speech is protected by universities, there is a growing number who are beginning to feel as though it is under threat.

The House of Commons has initiated a bill called the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill that intends to ensure that the free speech and debate of students is protected by universities, for the purposes of academic freedom. The bill is currently sitting in the committee stage in the House of Lords after already passing through the House of Commons.

The survey found that students value free speech but are more sensitive to causing offence to others via their discourse. As well as this, they are typically more hostile than the general public towards speakers who do cause offence.

Many students also voiced that they believe universities were becoming less tolerant of a wide range of political views. 50% of the students surveyed said they felt that people who had conservative views would be reluctant to express them.



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