Code of practice concerning freedom of speech


1. The University regards it as a fundamental principle of its existence as an independent academic institution that freedom of speech within the law should be respected on its premises and in all its activities. No individual or body of persons shall be prevented from studying, or participating in any academic activity, or being invited to deliver a lecture, or delivering a lecture, or complying with a contract of employment with the University, solely on account of their political, religious or other opinions and beliefs. Equally, the University does not expect that any speaker will make requests or seek to impose conditions requiring the observance of their opinions or beliefs by the audience.

Basis of jurisdiction

2. This Code is approved by the Council, in accordance with its authority under the Charter and Statutes of the University. It also constitutes the Code of Practice required by Section 43 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986, which states, inter alia, that every individual and body of persons concerned in the government of the University shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the University and for visiting speakers; and that the Council shall issue and keep up to date a code of practice setting out the procedures to be followed in connection with the organisation of meetings and other activities, and the conduct required in connection with any such meeting or activity.

Scope of authority

3. The provisions of this Code, and of any procedures duly instituted in accordance with it, shall apply in full to all employees, students, honorary and visiting staff and any other members of the University within the meaning of Section 2 of the Statutes; to the Students’ Union, its clubs and societies; and to all persons and associations occupying property of the University.

4. All persons to whom the Code applies are under an obligation to take no action which would hinder freedom of speech within the law, or which would prevent the University, the President and Vice-Chancellor or any of its Officers from discharging their duty to ensure freedom of speech so far as is reasonably practicable.

5. Ordinance 23(2) and the Regulations Governing Student Discipline provide that persons authorised by Senate for the purpose shall have the authority, and it shall be their duty to check disorderly or improper conduct or any breach of regulations occurring in any of the University buildings or their precincts or in public buildings or places.

6. This Code applies to informal or social activities as well as to any more formal meeting or lecture as may be subject to the specific and detailed special arrangements set out below. Examples include visiting lecturers invited by academic staff, religious or political representatives speaking on campus, and events such as debates, speeches and conferences taking place in University facilities that have been organised by staff, students and external bodies.

7. In the exercise of its duties under this Code, the University and its Officers will also take account of other obligations under the law which may require it to have regard to what is said on its premises. In particular, the rights conferred by this Code do not extend to any speaker who acts unlawfully by, for example, using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour so as to run the risk of inciting violence or racial hatred; who invites support for a proscribed terrorist organisation; or whose activities, even if directed to lawful purposes, cease to be lawful when, for example, they break conditions imposed by the police, endanger the health and safety of others, or cause serious public disorder.


8. The President and Vice-Chancellor shall be responsible to the Council for the operation and enforcement of this Code. His authority for its administration shall be delegated to the Registrar, who may further delegate authority in general or particular instances to other Officers of the University.

9. The Registrar shall be authorised to compile such additional Administrative Procedures as he or she thinks necessary for the effective implementation of this Code, and such procedures shall have effect as if they formed part of this Code, and shall be interpreted in such a manner as not to conflict with the Code.

10. Such administrative procedures may include, but are not restricted to:

  • a. details of the arrangements required for booking rooms or arranging other activities on University premises;
  • b. appointing of Officers responsible for the receipt and management of event bookings;
  • c. explanation and elaboration of the categories of visiting speaker, and of subject matter for a meeting, and of other characteristics of an activity which at any given time is likely to be "designated" under the terms of paragraph 21 below.

11. Such Administrative Procedures shall be published by the Registrar in an Appendix to this Code and, as far as is reasonably practicable, shall be circulated to all persons or organisations within the University concerned in the organisation of activities covered by this Code. Failure to receive such Administrative Procedures shall not exempt the organiser of any activity from liability to conform with the said procedures.

General requirements

12. Any meeting or activity taking place on the premises of the University, shall, whether it has been "designated" or not, comply with paragraphs 1 and 4 above, and with paragraphs 13 to 20 below.

13. The organisers of any meeting or activity held on University premises shall ensure that a single person is appointed as the principal organiser of the event. The principal organiser has a duty to see that nothing in the preparations for or conduct of that meeting or activity infringes the law, for example, by conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace or incitement to illegal acts.

14. The principal organiser or chair of the meeting has a duty so far as is possible to ensure that both the audience and the speaker act in accordance with the law during the meeting. In the case of conduct which is or appears to be unlawful or in breach of this Code, the chair is required to give appropriate warning and, if necessary, to require the withdrawal or removal of persons concerned.

15. No article or objects capable of causing damage or injury may be taken inside a building where a meeting is taking place, or taken or used elsewhere on University premises, in circumstances likely to lead to damage or injury.

16. Premises used for meetings or activities must be left in a clean and tidy condition, in default of which the organisers may be charged for any additional cleaning and repairs that are subsequently required.

17. The University’s expectation is that any request to make a booking for an event to be held on University premises will normally be received at least two weeks before the event is due to take place. This notice period is required so that the University has sufficient time to undertake any review that it considers necessary of the details of the planned event. The University’s expectation is that any such review will normally be completed within three working days of the receipt of the request. Any specific variations to these normal expectations are detailed in the Appendix.

Gender segregation at events and meetings

18. The University has a legal duty to ensure that all students, employees and members of the public can enjoy access to events and meetings held on its premises without unlawful discrimination. Segregation of audiences according to gender is therefore not permitted at any conference, meeting, speech, lecture or other event organised for and attended by students, employees of the University or the Students’ Union, or members of the public. This includes any such event held on University premises that takes place under the auspices of the Students’ Union, its clubs, societies and associations, or any external organisation.

19. The University will decline any request received from an organising body or a visiting speaker, or from an individual attending or wishing to attend an event at the University, for the audience to be segregated according to gender.

20. Segregation according to gender is permissible during acts of collective religious worship as this is not subject to equality legislation. However, no segregation is permitted at any meeting or event at the University which precedes or follows on from an act of collective religious worship.

Designated events

21. Any meeting or other activity where the Registrar judges that the identity of the speaker and/or the subject matter of his or her speech will be regarded as controversial, such that there is a real likelihood that the speaker or participants may not be able to enter or leave the building safely and/or deliver his or her speech, will be classified by the Registrar or (in each of clauses 22-29) his Appointed Officer as a Designated Event.

22. The fact that a meeting or activity has for any reason not been defined as a Designated Event shall in no way exempt the organisers or participants from their general responsibilities under this Code.

23. The principal organiser of a Designated Event will be required to provide to the Registrar or his Appointed Officer, by a deadline which shall be specified by the University for that event, a written statement of the name of the speaker, the title and subject of the address and the precise times of the arrival and departure of the speaker. The University reserves the right to cancel the booking for any event where the principal organiser does not provide the written statement by the due deadline.

24. Having given proper consideration to this written statement and all other information as he or she deems appropriate, in accordance with the general principles set out in paragraphs 1 and 2, the Registrar shall issue to the principal organiser a written statement which shall either grant or withhold permission for the use of University premises for the event. This shall normally be issued within three working days of the receipt of the written statement from the principal organiser, and it shall indicate that the principal organiser has the right to appeal against the decision of the Registrar.

25. Permission for the use of University premises may be granted subject to such conditions as the Registrar considers reasonably necessary to secure fulfilment of the University's responsibilities concerning the protection of free speech within the law.

26. The principal organiser must provide written confirmation that they and all other persons concerned with the organisation of, or speaking at, an event for which permission has been granted shall be required to comply with any and every condition laid down by the Registrar. Such conditions may include a requirement that tickets must be issued for public meetings and that an adequate number of named stewards should be available, as to whose suitability the Registrar must be satisfied, in addition to any security staff that the Registrar may feel should be present to maintain order.

27. The conditions prescribed by the Registrar may include conditions concerning admission or exclusion of press, television or broadcasting personnel.

28. In addition to any conditions referred to above the Registrar has discretion to lay down further conditions, if appropriate, after consultation with the police; and if not satisfied that adequate arrangements can be made to maintain good order and the health and safety of all individuals involved in the event he or she may refuse or withdraw permission for the meeting or activity. This shall include the discretion to withdraw permission at short notice, even after an event has commenced, if it becomes apparent that the University has not been notified of details or material changes, such as a change of named speaker, which might otherwise have resulted in permission to hold the event not being granted.

29. Appeals against the rulings of the Registrar may be made to the President and ViceChancellor whose decision shall be final but must be reported to the next meeting of the Council.


30. Any infringement of this Code by a student or a member of staff of the University shall be subject to the established disciplinary procedures of the University appropriate to the person or persons concerned. In respect of students, infringement may be classified as an offence within the terms of the Regulations Governing Student Discipline; and in respect of employees of the University, infringement may be regarded as a breach of contract of employment.

31. If any actions involve breaches of the law, the University will assist the prosecuting authorities to implement the process of law, and may suspend any internal disciplinary proceedings pending the outcome of any such processes.

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