Protecting Free Speech and Academic Freedom in Universities

49 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2018

See all articles by Ian Cram

Ian Cram

University of Leeds

Helen Fenwick

University of Durham

Date Written: September 2018


Restrictions on speaking events in universities have been created both by recent student‐led efforts at ‘no‐platforming’ and by Part 5 of the Counter‐terrorism and Security Act 2015 which placed aspects of the government's Prevent strategy on a statutory basis. The statutory Prevent duty in universities includes, under the accompanying Guidance, curbing or monitoring events that could have an impact in drawing persons into terrorism. This article places the combined impact of Part 5 and student‐led curbs on campus speech in context by juxtaposing pre‐existing restrictions with the various free speech duties of universities. Focusing on speaking events, it evaluates the resulting state of free speech and academic freedom in universities. It finds potential violations of established free speech norms due to the impact of pre‐emptive strikes against some campus‐linked speech articulating non‐mainstream viewpoints. But it also argues that not all such speech has a strong foundation within such norms.

Keywords: ‘Prevent’ duty, student no‐platforming policies, universities, Article 10 ECHR, Counter‐terrorism and Security Act 2015, Human Rights Act, speech values

Suggested Citation

Cram, Ian and Fenwick, Helen, Protecting Free Speech and Academic Freedom in Universities (September 2018). The Modern Law Review, Vol. 81, Issue 5, pp. 825-873, 2018, Available at SSRN: or

Ian Cram (Contact Author)

University of Leeds

Leeds, LS2 9JT
United Kingdom

Helen Fenwick

University of Durham ( email )

Mill Hill Lane
Durham, Durham DH1 3HY
United Kingdom

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