Woke universities must end ‘culture of intimidation’ towards controversial views, minister warns

Children's minister Claire Coutinho at GoApe near Alexandre Palace, North London. Only two children could be identified and they are Emilee Nascimento (girl) and Arian Zaynudin. Picture by Damien McFadden: 07968 308252

WOKE universities must end the “culture of intimidation” towards controversial opinions, an education minister will warn.

Claire Coutinho is putting campuses on notice that students seeking to “close down wider debate” is not acceptable. 

Claire Coutinho is telling universities to protect free speech

The Tory rising star will use a speech today to rail against cancel culture and remind universities of new laws enshrining freedom of speech.

Ministers have become concerned open debate is being stifled and Rishi Sunak recently criticised Oxford students for trying to block women’s activist Kathleen Stock from speaking. 

Sounding the alarm, Ms Coutinho will warn free speech is “under threat in the very places where the most controversial debates should be taking place – on campus”.

She will tell the Policy Exchange think tank: “If we don’t bring an end to this culture of intimidation, we’re allowing an intellectual sedative to be injected into the university experience.”

In particular she will take aim at “activists who dress up their oppression in the language of tolerance and emotional safety”, and those who “fire off a lot of tweets and draft open letters not simply to express an opinion, but to close down wider debate.”

The Higher Education Act puts a legal duty on universities to ensure free speech with the threat of sanctions and fines for those in breach.

Hailing the law, Ms Coutinho will say: “I am delighted that Kathleen Stock – despite the best attempts of some – did in fact speak to curious and respectful students recently.

“I am also pleased that students who disagreed were allowed to protest outside. Both are important.”

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