Study: Over Half of Universities in UK Actively Censor Speech

“They claim to censor in the name of protecting students, but students are often the targets of their censorship.”

The battle for free speech on campus is certainly not limited to the United States. A new study out of the UK has found that over half of the country’s universities are actively censoring student speech.

In its fourth annual report, the Free Speech University Rankings (FSUR) conducted by Spiked surveyed 115 UK schools and published these results:

55 percent of universities now actively censor speech, 39 percent stifle speech through excessive regulation, and just six percent are truly free, open places.

The study also found that the “severity of restrictions seems to be increasing.”

“In some of our most esteemed universities, supposed citadels of free thinking and scientific endeavour, administrations are demanding that debate about transgenderism be shut down and courses be cleansed of un-PC material,” writes Spiked’s deputy editor Tom Slater. “We also found that 48 per cent of institutions have policies which warn against insulting faith groups or offending religious sensibilities.”

Student Unions are also making trouble for students and even demand that their religious sensibilities “must be respected.” Student members are also going after anyone who criticizes gay marriage or anything that goes against their leftist beliefs. Slater says student unions and other activist groups are “by far the most intolerant forces on campuses.”

The worst campuses of the bunch are at the University of Oxford and Newcastle University, according to the study. They actively ban ideas, speakers, and texts. Of the 115 universities, only seven don’t restrict speech. Those schools in between don’t ban speech outright, but “chill” it “through intervention.”

Most universities claim they are protecting students with these restrictions, but it’s students who are most “often the targets of censorship,” says Slater:

We’ve found that 17 institutions have censored or punished students for offensive speech and conduct over the past three years.

Last year, the University of Bristol Students’ Union forced its Cheerleading Society to cancel its chav-themed social event, because it was deemed ‘classist’ - despite the fact many of the cheerleaders were from working-class backgrounds.

Whether students are trying to have a jokey night out, inviting a controversial speaker or expressing their deepest held moral convictions, they can find themselves punished and shamed.

“There is a new generation of uniquely thin-skinned student activists, brought up in a culture that seems to nurture self-esteem over robustness, and which preaches the multicultural idea that we should shy away from challenging certain cultural and religious ideas for fear of giving offence,” adds Slater. “There is an unholy alliance between distant, unrepresentative student activists who demand censorship in the name of protecting students, and a cowardly university administration all too willing to cave into their demands.”

FSUR lists the schools surveyed and has ranked them traffic light-style with red, yellow, and green markings. See the chart here.