Universities 'must stand up to easily offended students', academics warn

University students appear in this file image Credit: PA

Universities are stifling free speech because of "small but vocal minority" of easily offended student activists, according to a group of leading academics.

The academics, led by Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at the University of Canterbury, called on university vice-chancellors to take a "much stronger stance" against all forms of censorship.

Writing in a letter published in The Daily Telegraph today they said: "Few academics challenge censorship that emerges from students.

"It is important that more do, because a culture that restricts the free exchange of ideas encourages self-censorship and leaves people afraid to express their views in case they may be misinterpreted.

"This risks destroying the very fabric of democracy."

In recent years, student campaigns have prevented various speakers from appearing at campus events, including Maryam Namazie, a critic of Islamism, who was prevented from speaking at Warwick University in September.

Historian David Starkey and feminist Germaine Greer have also been the subject of student objections, meanwhile various student unions have banned The Sun and the pop song 'Blurred Lines'.

The academics' letter continued: "An open and democratic society requires people to have the courage to argue against ideas they disagree with or even find offensive.

"At the moment there is a real risk that students are not given opportunities to engage in such debate.

"A generation of students is being denied the opportunity to test their opinions against the views of those they don't agree with."