Best free speech practice

What constitutes best free speech practice will evolve over the years. There is plenty of agreement as to the general principles for securing free speech, less so about what that requires to be done in practice. We will keep alert to evolving standards and practices.

Our associated campaign, Best Free Speech Practice (BFSP), is a non-partisan project whose aim is to identify what the legal requirements are for free speech protection in the UK, and what the consequent requirements are in practice.

BFSP’s first project focuses on HEPs. 

It is clear that the extent and onerous nature of the current legal requirements, including the effects of the Forstater, Allison Bailey and Harry Miller cases, are insufficiently appreciated by universities and poorly complied with. This is likely to get worse when the current Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill (HEFOSB) becomes law. A group of senior lawyers and academics is developing a lengthy statement for BFSP of best free speech practice in respect of English universities, reflecting the law as it is evolving, which will set out the relevant legal requirements and the actions, policies and practices which are required of relevant institutions to give the law – and its spirit – proper effect.

Pending the publication of this detailed statement, BFSP has developed statements on various aspects of HEPs’ obligations regarding free speech. They can be found here.

Institutions’ legal and practical obligations require them to develop detailed policies, requirements and procedures in the context of their particular circumstances and regulatory structures, and this is about to become more acute when the HEFOSB becomes law. AFFS will be campaigning for compliance with the relevant requirements and will intervene where appropriate compliance is not happening. AFFS envisages that Institution-focused Campaigns will take a similar approach.