Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill - AoC note

22 Sep 2021

Parliament is currently debating a bill that would create new free speech duties on higher education providers, their student unions and the Office of Students which is where a new Free Speech Regulator will be based. In its current form, this law will apply to the 165 further education colleges that offer higher education. AoC's written evidence to the Public Bill Committee suggests some amendments to this bill to remove colleges and their student unions from the scope of the bill for the following reasons:

  • None of the free speech cases cited by government and others concern colleges
  • Including colleges within these regulations creates unnecessary burdens on them and will divert the free speech regulator from their core duty
  • If there was a problem in future, the charitable regulator of colleges is the DfE and they could act. Also unlike universities and other registered HE providers, HM chief inspector has a legal duty to inspect colleges under the 2006 Education and inspections Act.
  • Almost all student unions in colleges are unincorporated associations. None are big enough to be registered charities and, like college Junior Common Rooms of Oxford and Cambridge universities, have excepted charity status.

The note, including the suggested amendments is here