Proposed free speech law will make English universities liable for breaches

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The government is to introduce legislation that will enable academics, students or visiting speakers who are no-platformed to sue universities for compensation where they feel they have suffered because of free speech infringements.

The proposal is one of a range of legal measures put forward by the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, as part of the government’s manifesto commitment to protect free speech and academic freedom in universities in England.

However, critics warned the legislation will be fraught with difficulties and fiercely opposed by many, including the University and College Union, which accused the government of “fighting phantom threats to free speech” rather than addressing the Covid crisis in higher education.