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UK Universities - What you should know

No Free SpeechIf you are contemplating spending a great deal of money on a University course for yourself, or for your child(ren), then I think you should check whether the University of choice is one which supports and encourages free speech.  If not it is probably following the trend first seen on US campuses, but now spreading through UK universities - namely, the idea that it is the role of the University to train activists in social justice. 

Where this ideology is firmly rooted within a particular university, the quality of academic teaching is almost certain to be compromised, and it is very likely that you (or your children) will be exposed to courses/modules of study which are little more than indoctrination into a particularly divisive and dangerous sort of social justice ideology.  In this ideology, opposing views are labelled violence or harm, and are silenced.  Students are taught that the west is basically rotten, that white people are undeservedly privileged, founded on the oppression of blacks, and that people should be treated according to where they fit into a notional matrix of oppression, where status depends on being oppressed, with the most oppressed granted the highest status.  White men, needless to say, are firmly at the bottom of the heap and should basically shut up, and defer to people whose lived experiences of oppression make them experts.

Whatever your view of the basic ideology, the problem is the way it operates. Freedom of speech is no longer considered a basic right - in fact it is deemed 'problematic'. Speech which hurts the feelings of others, assert the ideologues, should NOT be free - it should be banned. Any hateful or abusive ideas or words (as THEY judge) are considered to be violence, causing actual harm and, like other acts of violence, need to be controlled and minimised.  Students are basically being infantilised, taught that they should not have to hear or witness anything which they consider offensive or problematic.  An example of this recently surfaced at Oxford University, where law students were told that they could opt out of attending lectures where distressing subjects, like rape and sexual assault, would be discussed.

Spiked, a magazine concerned largely with issues of free speech, has carried out a survey of UK Universities for the last three years. Each University and each Students' Union is categorised using a traffic-light system, as follows:

Red.  A students’ union, university or institution that is hostile to free speech and free expression, mandating explicit restrictions on speech, including, but not limited to, bans on specific ideologies, political affiliations,

beliefs, books, speakers or words.

 Amber. A students’ union, university or institution that chills free speech and free expression by issuing guidance with regard to appropriate speech and conduct. Policies in this category often concern themselves with the tone, rather than the content, of speech and ideas. This includes, but is not limited to, restrictions on offensive, controversial or provocative speech and expression. Policies which vet speakers, literature or events may also fall within this category.

Green.   A students’ union, university or institution that, as far as we are aware, places no restrictions on free speech and expression – other than where such speech or expression is unlawful.



The institution is given a rating, and the students union is given a rating.  Combining the two gives an overall rating for the university in question. 
More details about the criteria used are available on the Spiked Website).

My advice would be to seriously consider whether you want to consider a university in the red category.  You will be spending a significant amount of money, and you should consider whether it will be well spend.

Personally speaking,  I would want to get the best academic materials, support and teaching possible for my money. I would NOT want to waste time and money on being indoctrinated into an extremely dubious and divisive social justice ideology, derived as it is from an unholy mix of Marxism and Gallic Post-structuralism.  Neither would I want lecturers and professors who considered it their role to turn me and my fellow students into activists for their ideology. I would be horrified to be informed that I could not hear a particular opinion or viewpoint because it was deemed triggering or harmful and I would take strong exception to any learning environment in which I was expected to defer to classmates because of their skin colour, ethnic origin or gender. 

This is, unfortunately, now the situation in many UK universities, and the disease - for such it is - seems to be spreading. Academics bear much of the blame. The majority of them do not buy into the extreme social justice ideology but they are frightened to speak against it because they will face being labelled bigots. To be sure, the threat is real. The few academics in the US and Canada who have spoken out have been widely abused and misrepresented, and in some cases bullied and actually assaulted. Nevertheless it is required of academics that they speak truth and oppose falsehood. Many have tenure, which means their jobs are pretty secure, so they should be forthright and robust in their criticisms.  University administrators and managers are also hugely at fault. They have pandered and deferred to the ideologues, granting outrageous concessions and ignoring completely unacceptable behaviour on the part of both academic staff and their students. This has simply served to bolster their sense of moral righteousness, and re-enforce their conviction that any opposition is, at best, ignorant and, more likely, the result of bigotry and malice.

Universities are the one place where it should be possible to discuss ANY view, no matter how repulsive or offensive. A major part of the function of a university is to teach young people to discriminate the good from the bad, the valid from the invalid. To ban or restrict certain speakers or certain viewpoints, on the grounds that it might offend, is ridiculous and dangerous, yet it is now commonplace on University campuses. This needs to be challenged robustly NOW.  Any student who needs a 
safe space to escape views which might challenge or offend his/her beliefs should not be at a university, and should probably go home to mummy and daddy until ready to move into adulthood.

Summary  (click on the University name to open the Spiked profile for that institution).

RED Category
Abertay Aberystwyth Aston BathBath Spa
Bedfordshire BirkbeckBirminghamBirmingham CityBournemouth
BradfordBristolBrunelCardiffCardiff Met
DundeeDurhamEdge HillEdinburghEssex
HullKingstonKing’s CollegeLancasterLeeds
Leeds BeckettLiverpool John MooresLondon South BankLSEManchester Met
OxfordPlymouthPortsmouthQueen MargaretQueen Mary
ReadingRoehamptonRoyal HollowaySalfordSheffield
Sheffield HallamStirlingStrathclydeSurreySussex
SwanseaUni of Central LondonUni of East AngliaUni of East LondonUni of West England
WarwickWestminsterWolverhamptonYork St John
Amber Category
AberdeenAnglia RuskinBangorBoltonBrighton
CambridgeCanterburyChesterDe MontfortEdinburgh Napier
Leeds TrinityLiverpoolLondon MetNorthumbriaNottingham Trent
Oxford BrookesQueen’s BelfastSchool of Oriental & African StudiesSolentSouth Wales
SouthamptonSt AndrewsSunderlandTeessideUni of Central Lancs
UlsterUni of West LondonWinchesterWorcesterYork
Green Category
BuckinghamGlasgow CaledonianHertfordshireLoughboroughRobert Gordon
Trinity St DavidUni of West Scotland

As you can see the situation is pretty dire. Only a small number of Universities are categorised as green and a worryingly large number are red. Hopefully campaigns such as the one being led by Spiked will bring this issue to public attention and force changes.
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The Problem with the Left (1/2)

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