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Most students think UK universities protect free speech, survey finds

 According to a King's College London survey, although a rising proportion of students are aware that free speech is restricted on campus, Most UK students still believe that their universities are safe spaces for debate and free expression.

According to KCL's Policy Institute report, 65% of students concur that "free speech and strong debate are properly safeguarded in my university," up from 63% in a survey conducted three years prior.

But the study of 1,500 current students revealed that, double the 12% who answered the same in 2019, one in four had "frequently" heard of events at their university where free speech had been restricted. In contrast to the 44% in 2019, 32% claimed they had not heard of any events.

Despite displaying antagonism against speakers who expressed unpleasant opinions, students backed the government's initiatives to safeguard speech and discussion on college campuses through the higher education freedom of speech law, which is currently before parliament.

According to studies, a "huge majority" of students believed that universities protected free expression, but a growing minority of students felt that it was under jeopardy, according to Bobby Duffy, the head of KCL's Policy Institute.

They are not the "snowflakes" they are sometimes painted as: it's apparent that they value free expression, with majorities in favor of measures to encourage it, according to Duffy. However, students do tend to be a little more sensitive to offending people than the general population.

"Universities should be confident that the situation regarding free speech is not as bad as it is frequently depicted, but they should also understand that it is an issue that is too vital to ignore.

"The government, on the other hand, need to ensure such controls are handled thoughtfully and appropriately, including searching for good methods to enhance free expression, not only regulating against its being constrained," the author writes.

Nearly half of the students surveyed said that universities were losing their tolerance for a variety of viewpoints, with 50% believing that conservatives were reluctant to voice their opinions and 36% believing that leftists were reluctant to do the same.

Additionally, 39% of students felt that student unions should prohibit speakers who might insult others, while 41% of students said that professors should be fired for assigning material that angered students.

The majority of students claimed to know little to nothing about the new legislation, but after hearing more about it, six out of ten expressed support for it, including 71% who thought colleges and student unions should be required to uphold free speech rules of behavior.

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