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Free speech and no platform on UK campuses: student protest and government policy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Over the past few years, governments and politicians around the world have voiced concern about the curbing of ‘free speech’ on university campuses through the use of ‘No Platform’ policies. These arguments are part of a long historical trajectory. In 1986, the UK government legislated that Universities, polytechnics and colleges “must ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the establishment and for visiting speakers”. This law sought to outlaw the National Union of Student’s (NUS) ‘No Platform’ policy which had been in place since 1974. This policy, which initially targeted fascist or racist speakers on campus, came to be used against a wide range of people including sitting Members of Parliament (MPs). By the mid-1980s the government, under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who was particularly concerned about the power of the NUS, decided that this activity needed to be stopped in the name of ‘free speech’. This chapter explores the debates and uses of ‘No Platform’ between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s. It illustrates the divisions both among students and between students and politicians over this issue. It highlights the importance of seeing this policy in its historical context, as part of larger debates about the nature of racism and the best ways to oppose it.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWhen Students Protest. Volume 1: Education Matters
PublisherRowman & Littlefield International
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 2019

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