We survey British universities, examining the policies and actions of universities and students’ unions, and rank them using our traffic-light system.
Traffic-light ranking system:
has banned and actively censored ideas on campus
has chilled free speech through intervention
has a hands-off approach to free speech
The University of Northumbria and Northumbria Students’ Union collectively create an atmosphere that chills free speech. The university, which has maintained its Green ranking, places some restrictions on posters and IT use, but these weren’t significant enough to affect its overall ranking. The students’ union, which has maintained its Red ranking, has a No Platform policy, banning racist and fascist groups, and also restricts homophobic and transphobic expression. The institution’s overall ranking remains Amber.
The university - GREEN
Student Disciplinary Rules and Procedures
‘Posters or other material that cause offence may not be displayed and will be removed wherever found… Never say anything (on social media) that may cause distress to others.’
Due to the specific nature of these two restrictions, this has been weighted as two Amber Actions.
The students’ union - RED
No Platform Policy
‘The union does not regard commitment to freedom of speech as the same as an automatic right to a platform for any speaker. The union will maintain a No Platform list of organisations or individuals whose actions consistently show that they seek to incite violence to others.’
Hard copy provided by students' union.
Fancy Dress at NSU
‘NSU’s Equality and Diversity policy is clear in dictating that behaviours found to be homophobic, transphobic, racist, sexist or offensive to those with disabilities will not be tolerated. Therefore wearing a costume that contributes to any of the mentioned behaviours will not be permitted, nor will costumes mocking a students’ faith or belief. If you are in doubt, don't wear it; there are a million entertaining costumes to pick from. Your desire to be “funny” or “edgy” is not greater than every student's right to feel like NSU is a Safe Space.’
Guidance on Student Discipline, Professional Suitability and Social Networking
‘Never say anything [on social media] that may cause distress to others.’
Due to the specific nature of this restriction, this has been weighted as an Amber Action.