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‘spiked’ Releases Speech Code Rankings for Universities in United Kingdom

By February 2, 2015

American students can look to FIRE’s Spotlight database and annual speech code report for information on which colleges and universities uphold freedom of expression on campus. Canadian students can look to the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms’ Campus Freedom Index. Thanks to the British magazine spiked, students in the United Kingdom now have their own resource for information about which U.K. institutions are hostile to free speech and which limit expression only when it is prohibited by law.

The Free Speech University Rankings (FSUR) take a similar approach to that of our Spotlight database, awarding a red, amber (British for yellow?), or green traffic light rating to university policies, and then an overall rating based on the rating of an institution’s worst policy. In addition to assessing university policies, FSUR includes the policies and actions of students’ unions. Just like in the U.S., the results could be a lot better. spiked reports that 80 percent of universities in the U.K. censor speech beyond what is punishable by law. Popular bans include The Sun’s not-safe-for-work Page 3 and Robin Thicke’s 2013 hit “Blurred Lines.”

Tom Slater, coordinator of FSUR and of spiked’s “Down with Campus Censorship!” campaign, explained what he hopes to achieve with the project:

The FSUR shows that censorship is something UK universities can no longer ignore. Banning speakers, regulating speech and stifling debate have become routine practices – fuelled by a risk-averse and intolerant culture at the heart of these institutions.

This is a wake-up call for higher education. If universities don’t reform, loosen the shackles and start fostering a new and inclusive culture on campus, then they risk undermining their very mission – that of moulding the next generation of leaders and free-thinkers.

FIRE hopes that students take this information and fight back to demand an open “marketplace of ideas” on campuses throughout the U.K. spiked’s continued advocacy for freedom of expression is invaluable to the nation’s students and professors, and FIRE commends Slater and his team for providing this new resource.

That’s not all from spiked today, though—FIRE President Greg Lukianoff spoke on spiked’s podcast about speech codes, trigger warnings, our Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project, and his newest book, Freedom From Speech.

For more analysis of FSUR results, or for more information on one of the 115 universities surveyed, click over to spiked’s website.