Freedom of Expression

The Freedom of Expression Code of Practice was adopted by the University Council on 23 November 2023.

The University is preparing for the implementation of the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act 2023, expected to be in August 2024.

Guidance for staff, students and external speakers is being developed. It will be shared on this page in due course and will be subject to regular review.

Code of Practice

1. Background

1.1 This Code of Practice arises from 探花精选’s duties under the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act 2023.

1.2 This Code of Practice is also written with reference to the following relevant legislation:

  • The which establishes the right to freedom of expression;
  • The 2010 which places duties upon public authorities to prevent discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics, to eliminate discrimination and to foster positive relations between communities; and
  • The which establishes the requirement on Universities to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure freedom of speech for its members, students and employees.

1.3 This Code of Practice sets out:

  • 探花精选’s values relating to freedom of expression; and
  • 探花精选’s procedures in relation to the organisation and management of meetings where freedom of expression may be an issue, including external speakers.

2. The Principles of Freedom of Expression at 探花精选

2.1 We use the term freedom of expression to encompass all forms of expression (speech, writing, artistic, physical and other forms of expression). The principles set out in this Code of Practice apply to all such forms of expression.

2.2 Open debate, challenging discussion and the advancement of novel perspectives are fundamental to the University’s mission to advance knowledge and wisdom. Without freedom of expression and academic freedom this mission cannot be completed. 探花精选 is therefore committed to promoting freedom of expression and academic freedom.

2.3 We recognise that at times this mission will mean that views or ideas are expressed which are challenging, controversial and, in some cases, people may find offensive. This might be in an academic research or teaching context or more broadly within the University. We will seek to mitigate this by fostering an environment where such views can be discussed openly and safely and are subject to rigorous academic challenge.

2.4 We note that freedom of expression is always bounded by the law. Furthermore, the University has a responsibility under the Public Sector Equality Duty to have due regard to fostering good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.

2.5 In exercising their freedom of expression, all staff, students and visitors have a responsibility to act within the relevant University polices (see section 4 below) and to adhere to the following values, which are enshrined in the University Strategy:

  • Authentic: We will be honest, trustworthy and open, we will respect one another and build confidence across our community.
  • Adventurous: We will be progressive, ambitious and strive to achieve our best.
  • Responsible: We will be accountable for our actions, we will care for ourselves, others and our environment.
  • Creative: We will work imaginatively and innovatively, we will find solutions and be smart in the way that we apply our resources and capitalise on our strengths.
  • Collaborative: We will foster team spirit and create a strong sense of community; we will work together with colleagues, students, alumni and partners.

2.6 Where controversial or novel views are expressed in an academic context these will need to be supported with evidence and argument. The University’s Statement on Academic Freedom should be followed in those cases.

2.7 Freedom of expression is not unfettered. Certain expression may be considered illegal, for example:

  • speech which constitutes harassment;
  • incitement to hatred or violence, including on the basis of a protected characteristic;
  • speech which encourages support for proscribed organisations as per the ; or
  • speech that encourages any form of criminal activity.

2.8 Notwithstanding its duty to promote and secure freedom of expression, 探花精选 may (but is not obliged to, in the case of the second bullet point below) take action against expression which:

  • is illegal (as outlined in section 2.7 above for example); or
  • its sole intent is to cause offence.

Acts which are fundamentally disruptive, rather than acts of expression, do not attract protection under this Code of Practice.

2.9 Where there are concerns that an act of expression may have contravened the principles outlined above this will be dealt with under our existing complaints processes. For matters raised by students, these will be dealt with pursuant to Ordinance XXXVIII. For matters raised by staff, these will be dealt with pursuant to Ordinance XXXVII. For matters raised by third parties, these may be addressed to the Chief Operating Officer who will undertake an initial review to determine whether there is a prima facie case to answer and if so, will initiate an appropriate investigation. All such complaints processes are subject to the civil burden of proof: that the matter complained of happened on the balance of probabilities. In the event that the complainant is unhappy with the outcome of the Chief Operating Officer’s investigation, they may request that the Provost and Deputy Vice Chancellor review the decision, only on the grounds of (i) Procedural irregularity; (ii) error in application of the law or this Code of Practice; or (iii) irrationality.

2.10 The Office for Students (OfS) operates a free speech complaints scheme. Under that scheme, the OfS can review complaints about free speech from members, students, staff, applicants for academic posts and (actual or invited) visiting speakers. Information about the complaints the OfS can review is available on its website.

3. Management of Freedom of Expression in University Settings (including for external speakers)

3.1 Our External Speaker Policy should be followed for any External Speakers invited to the University. Appendix 4 of the External Speaker Policy sets out the standards of conduct expected of External Speakers.

3.2 In the course of teaching and research activity, the University expects all staff and students to act in accordance with the principles set out in section 2 above. Where the University believes that conduct has breached these principles this will be dealt with under the procedures outlined in 2.9 above. Guidance will be made available to provide further detail on expectations.

3.3 Unless an event or speaker is deemed likely to breach the principles set out in section 2 above and/or is in breach of our External Speaker Policy, the event will be permitted. Where there are concerns about an event breaching Loughborough’s Code of Practice the matter should be referred to the Designated Officer. In making a determination, the Designated Officer may take such advice from colleagues as they deem necessary and appropriate.

3.4 In reaching a determination about whether to permit an event, the University will not normally require the event organiser to bear any costs associated with security for that event, save for exceptional circumstances.

4. Other relevant University policies and guidance

Statement on Academic Freedom
Our Statement on Academic Freedom sets out our position on academic freedom and how any tensions between academic freedom and our duty to tackle discrimination, harassment and bullying and to promote equality can be resolved. 

Harassment and Bullying Policy
Our Harassment & Bullying Policy sets out how we will foster an environment where our staff, visitors and contractors can work free from intimidation, aggression, coercion and victimisation.

Student Code of Conduct
Our Student Code of Conduct (Ordinance XVII) sets out offences which may constitute a disciplinary offence.

Student Charter
Our Student Charter, jointly developed by students and staff, sets out the principles by which we want our student community to live.

Employee Code of Conduct
Our Employee Code of Conduct sets out our expectations of all staff, including demonstrating respect for others.

Whistleblowing Policy
Our Whistleblowing Policy sets out what we do to create an environment in which serious concerns about any of our activity can be raised.

This policy has been reviewed under Project Compliance
Review date: September 2024

Protests

As part of the University鈥檚 commitment to freedom of expression, the University recognises the right to protest. It additionally recognises the right to freedom of assembly.

This Guidance has been produced to support staff and students in relation to the safe and appropriate conduct of protests.

Introduction

As part of the University’s commitment to freedom of expression, the University recognises the right to protest. It additionally recognises the right to freedom of assembly.

Where an individual or group of individuals wish to protest in some form, they must do so lawfully and safely.

Protesting in furtherance of a controversial principle or a principle which some might find offensive, is not inherently unlawful.

Protesting against something can take many forms, this guidance is specifically about one or more people attending one of our campuses in person to protest on an issue in an open space.

What we expect of you

To help ensure any protests or activities in open and/or communal spaces on campus can be conducted safely, the University will provide advice in relation to security, safety and location for planned protests. The organiser should contact security@lboro.ac.uk setting out:

  • who they are and whether they are a staff member or a student
  • the subject matter of the protest
  • where and when they intend to protest
  • the expected number of individuals in attendance.

Posters, banners or other items should not be affixed to University or private property without permission. Some notice boards around campus have been designated for the use of different groups and these should be used appropriately.

You should not behave in a way which poses a risk to the health and safety of you or others or would otherwise cause damage to University property. In particular, you must not block campus roads, as this could impede emergency services attending at a location on campus.

You should not behave in a way which is intimidating to other staff, students or visitors. Unless worn on religious or medical grounds, face coverings are discouraged.

You should not behave in a way which causes disruption to or improper interference with the academic, administrative, sporting, social or other activities of the University.

You should ensure that any materials used in a protest do not contain any imagery or text which would be a breach of the civil or criminal law. For example:

  • do not use racist or discriminatory language
  • do not express support for a proscribed terrorist group
  • do not make defamatory statements about others

What you can expect from the University

We will provide advice and guidance as to how to conduct your protest safely. The University respects staff and students' rights to protest.

The University is private land and so those who do not have a legitimate reason to be on campus will be asked to leave. Those involved in a protest may be asked to prove that they are indeed current staff or students, but your identity will not be recorded anywhere as a result of those checks.

If face coverings are worn, unless they are for religious or medical reasons, you will be required to remove them for the purposes of verifying your identity against photo ID.

Participating in respectful conversations

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Services have produced a range of helpful resources to support staff.

Among these resources is the Let's Talk toolkit to help colleagues engage in respectful conversations, where discussions involve potential conflict and disagreement.