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In the Office for Students (OfS) new consultation on guidance on what universities and SUs should do to secure free speech, the regulator has advice on the conduct that might be able to be required of external speakers.

Amongst other things, it says that a dedicated section of a university or SU’s code of practice should be should be consistent with the principle that:

If a speaker breaks the law, it is the speaker who is culpable.

That line is actually a lift from the time when the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights – way back in 2018 – issued their own guidance on free speech on campus.

Only that time, the JCHR added another line that OfS has mysteriously chosen to omit from its rather more expansive guidance:

However, if those organising an event invite speakers who they might reasonably have suspected would use their platform to break the law (ie because they have done so previously) they may fall foul of the law themselves.

That matters for a couple of reasons. On the day that the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill was launched into Parliament (just under three years ago), the then universities minister Michelle Donelan got into a pickle on PM over whether holocaust deniers (as opposed to someone promising to speak in support of holocaust denial) could be banned from campus.

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