After some high-profile matters arising at Universities a few years ago concerning freedom of speech, the Government have moved to put in place measures to protect freedom of speech on campus. The Higher Education (Freedom Of Speech) Act 2023 received Royal Assent on 11th May 2023.

The new statutory duty includes protection for “academic freedom” which is defined as “freedom within the law a) to question and test received wisdom, and b) to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, without placing themselves at risk of being adversely affected in any of the ways described…” in the legislation, including loss of their jobs or likelihood of securing promotion.

This is on the face of it, a very important piece of legislation which is intended to allow for Universities to continue to be a “market place of ideas”, and in particular to allow academics to be able to apply critical thinking and discussion on issues of the day. This pushes back against so-called “cancel-culture” and from an employment law perspective will no doubt lead to some interesting test cases in the months and years ahead.

The contents of this post do not constitute legal advice and are provided for general information purposes only