Universities will be fined if they fail to uphold free speech on campuses from April 2018
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Universities Minister Jo Johnson called for an end to the ‘no-platforming’ practice which bans controversial speakers. As of April next year, the newly formed Office for Students will have the power to fine and even suspend institutions that fail to protect freedom of speech within the law. Until recently, universities were allowed to ban speakers deemed controversial or offensive under the 'no-platform' policy. This was in an attempt to create 'safe space' for students within campuses, preventing discriminatory or offensive language to be used. A 2016 survey conducted by the NUS found 63% of university students in favour of the 'no-platform' policy. In his speech, Mr Johnson said that students should have the confidence to challenge such views: "In universities in American and worringly in the UK, we have seen examples of groups seeking to stifle those who do not agree with them. "Young people should have the resilience and confidence to challenge controversial opinions and take part in open, frank, and rigorous discussions." Universities UK Chief Executive Alistair Jarvis stressed the importance of protecting legitimate free speech: ‘There is already a legal duty on the higher education sector to secure free speech within the law and universities take these responsibilities very seriously.’ Mr Johnson’s plans come after he challenged safe space culture in universities in October.
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