MPs debate likely costs to universities of free speech bill

Each claim brought against a university or student union under proposed free speech legislation in the United Kingdom could set the institution back more than £180,000 (US$227,000) in legal costs and non-pecuniary losses, MPs have heard, writes Chris Parr for Research Professional News.

Speaking in a debate on the Free Speech (Higher Education) Bill, which is currently making its way through parliament, Shadow Universities Minister Matt Western warned that a tort giving individuals the right to sue universities if they believe they have been no-platformed could be incredibly costly for providers. Western said that if existing cost guidelines used in discrimination cases are followed when the bill becomes law, the value of losses could rise as high as £181,200.

In response, Claire Coutinho, the Department for Education junior minister with responsibility for free speech in education, said the cost of litigation brought under the tort established by the bill was “a matter for the courts”. “If universities would like not to have to spend money on redress, they should simply uphold freedom of speech,” she said. “Should not the staff and student experience of university be one in which they are exposed to different views and can speak freely and debate controversial ideas?”
Full report on the Research Professional News site