Free Speech University Rankings 2017

The 2017 Free Speech University Rankings (FSUR) – sponsored by AFAF – is out. spiked’s groundbreaking analysis of campus censorship in the UK has published its third annual report, and it paints a grim picture. Our survey, ranking 115 UK universities using our traffic-light system, shows that 63.5 per cent of universities now actively censor speech, and 30.5 per cent stifle speech through excessive regulation. This marks a steady rise in censorship over the past three years. Now only six per cent of UK universities are truly free, open places. Read the 2017 results.


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Academic Freedom Motion for UCU Congress 2017

Academic Freedom

Congress instructs the NEC to bring to Congress in 2018 a statement in defence of Academic Freedom as an addition to UCU Rules Section 2 ‘Aims and Objects’.

In reflecting on the wording of this amendment the NEC will consider the Academics for Academic Freedom (AFAF) principles of Academic Freedom:

(1) that academics, both inside and outside the classroom, have unrestricted liberty to question and test received wisdom and to put forward controversial and unpopular opinions, whether or not these are deemed offensive, and

(2) that academic institutions have no right to curb the exercise of this freedom by members of their staff, or to use it as grounds for disciplinary action or dismissal.

(114 words)

The Rules of the University and College Union are silent on academic freedom – the freedom that defines the academy. In increasingly censorious times lecturers need their union to give the highest priority to academic freedom. The motion above is the first step towards creating a union that defends our freedom. It was passed unanimously by the East Midlands Region of UCU on Saturday 21 January – so it will be debated at congress. But we need more Branches and Regions to put it forward and build support so that congress will adopt the proposal. Canterbury Christ Church University are going to consider it, as is the University of Derby. AFAF asks other UCU Branches and Regions to support this important motion.



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Free speech has become an issue of significant controversy. This debate will assess a number of key questions, including:
  • To what extent should freedom of speech be regarded as an absolute value?
  • Is it possible to draw a clear distinction between speech and action?
  • What constitutes hate speech and should it be banned?


  • Melantha Chittenden – National Union of Students LGBT+ officer
  • Claire Fox – Director of the Institute of Ideas, BBC Radio 4 Moral Maze panellist, author of ‘I Find that Offensive!’
  • Professor Mark Hammond – former CEO of the Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Professor James Soderholm – Head of Humanities, Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys

Venue, Date and Time:

Old Sessions House, Canterbury Christ Church University, OG46, Longport, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 1NX Thursday 26 January 2017, 18:00-20:00.

Further details here, or email Jim Butcher

Come and participate in the debate – all welcome!

Supported by: Canterbuy Christ Church Students’ Union / Engaging Sociology / Politics Matters / CCCU UCU

This event is open to the public.

Interesting Fact:

Canterbury Christ Church University was graded Green for freedom of speech in the 2016 Free Speech University Rankings which are sponsored by AFAF.



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The future of free speech: will preventing ‘radicalisation’ mean the death of debate?


The government’s ‘Prevent’ strategy sees the sudden psychological ‘radicalisation’ of vulnerable children and young people as the cause of today’s apparently meaningless acts of terrorism. It has turned teachers and lecturers into spies looking out for signs of ‘radicalisation’ including signs of unusual behaviour and mental illness. ‘Prevent’ has many critics who often condemn it as ‘Islamophobic’ for targeting Muslims, while its supporters claim that the aim is to prevent terrorism in all its forms including that of extreme right or ‘Fascist’ groups and that of individual fanatics.

But is the idea behind ‘Prevent’ ineffective because it is essentially passive? Watching, waiting and hoping are hardly inspiring activities.  The celebration of freedoms, of fun and the enjoyment of life are what will challenge the tendency to nihilistic, misanthropic and often self-hating acts of violence. Instead of active assertion of values, lecturers and teachers are required to create an Orwellian climate of suspicion and fear. Some even welcome their community safety roles and go about seeking out supposed signs of radicalisation.

A duty to report suspicions to the police and other authorities leaves teachers and lecturers in a morally shameful state. Their only weapon in response to the challenge of narcissistic and nihilistic extremism is to use the one ability that any teacher or lecturer worthy of the name has, the ability to discuss and debate every issue, however ‘sensitive’ or ‘offensive’ it may be. That includes the necessity to debate ‘Prevent’ and its implications without looking constantly over your shoulder.

Teachers and lecturers have a choice, either they can live in fear and spread fear, or they can speak up and say what they think and encourage pupils and students to speak freely.

At this Battle of Ideas satellite, sponsored by AFAF, we will uphold the motto of the Institute of Ideas: ‘Free Speech Allowed!’ and let nothing prevent people from speaking up. Come along and keep debate alive.

Date, Time and Venue: Tuesday 8 November at 7 PM, in the Hallmark Midland Hotel, Derby. Tickets £5 (waged) £3 (unwaged) available on Eventbrite.

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Book Launch – Academic Freedom Matters


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‘This house would never limit free speech on student campuses’

Tom SlaterDennis HayesTom Slater, deputy editor of the online current affairs magazine spiked! and co-ordinator of the Free Speech University Rankings (FSUR) and Dennis Hayes, professor of education at the University of Derby and founder and director of Academics For Academic Freedom (AFAF) defended the proposition ‘This house would never limit free speech on university campuses’. (more…)

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Why Academic Freedom Matters

Why academic freedom mattersA ‘must read’ new book out this September from Civitas with contributions from many AFAF supporters including Jenny Jarvie, Dennis Hayes, Cheryl Hudson (ed.), Tara McCormack, Jason Walsh and Joanna Williams (ed.). Order it now on Amazon only £9.

“Academic freedom in British universities has become a national talking point. Government policies such as the Prevent Duty and the Research Excellence Framework pose a threat to academic freedom, as do students – and increasingly scholars themselves – who want to turn the campus into an intellectual ‘safe space’. (more…)

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Vote Elrica for Freedom of Speech

1st Mar 2016 0 Comments

Elrica NUS

Elrica Degirmen is standing for the position of Education Officer in the University of Manchester NUS Elections on a free speech platform…if you can, vote for her, if not publicise her campaign…stand up to the NUS censors! Here is her manifesto:

Elrica1Elrica Man

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The new intolerance on campus

16th Feb 2016 0 Comments

The new intolerance on campus‘ is an afternoon of debate as part of the launch events for Spiked‘s Free Speech University Rankings (FSUR) which are sponsored by AFAF.

“When speakers are banned on campus today, they are often accused of being intolerant, or bigoted. Whether it’s a far-right firebrand or an Islamist preacher who’s being silenced, the charge that someone is being intolerant – of other religions, of women, of homosexuals – is the go-to justification for No Platforming him or her. But who are the real intolerant ones? Those who wish to air their views – as hateful or batty as they may be – or those who can’t tolerate hearing them?

At this unique, one-off conference – the first of its kind in the UK – spiked is bringing together world-renowned writers, academics and activists to interrogate these questions. With sessions on Safe Spaces, the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, No Platforming and hate speech, we will explore the rise of a new intellectual bigotry on campus, which is producing young minds that would rather censor or boycott their opponents than argue with them”.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016 from 12.00–17.00 (GMT), Conway Hall – 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL

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AFAF supports The Freedom Challenge

16th Oct 2015 0 Comments

The charity WORLDwrite which celebrates its 21st birthday this year and its Citizen TV station WORLDbytes are launching a touring Pop-Up Video Booth known as the Views Box. Initially to mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta and inflate the debate on the liberty we need, the Views Box will tour venues and locations to encourage the public to have their say. The videos made will be released online for viewing across the globe to inflate much needed debate.

The Freedom Challenge

At its Battle of Ideas launch at the Barbican in October 2015, the Views Box will record up to 80 speakers sharing their thoughts on the freedoms we need today. From free speech, press freedom, freedom of movement, free association to everyday freedoms, Liberty lovers will enter the booth and share their thoughts to camera to raise the banner for freedom. Take a look at the Full Programme.

The Year Ahead

From its inspiring debut the Views Box is set to tour locations for a whole year to video voices less heard on mainstream TV, to cover issues that are challenging and produce programmes that inspire.

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