Universities’ free-speech chief says post ‘not political’

A new freedom-of-speech champion for United Kingdom universities has promised to be impartial and non-political as he takes up his new role, writes Pat Hurst for the Independent.

Professor Arif Ahmed, director for freedom of speech and academic freedom at the Office for Students (OfS), said it was sometimes vital for students to explore a range of views at universities, some they might find offensive, and come to their own conclusions on issues. The government appointed Ahmed, a philosophy lecturer at the University of Cambridge, to the post earlier this year to promote open debate. His appointment followed the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act and protests surrounding feminist Professor Kathleen Stock’s talk to the Oxford Union over her views on gender identity.

Speaking to university bosses at the Universities UK annual conference in Manchester, Ahmed said: “This post, and this function of the OfS, is completely impartial, it’s absolutely not political … Freedom of speech doesn’t work, it can’t work, unless it is and is seen to be not politically partisan. And that’s especially true of universities … And that will be my first priority, to make that clear.”
Full report on the Independent site