Universities will be allowed to host extremist speakers – within limits


Originally published in The Guardian

University campus meetings which give a platform to extremist speakers will only be allowed to go ahead if they are to be directly challenged by somebody with opposing views at the same event, under compromise counter-extremism proposals agreed by the government.

The new redrawn statutory duty on universities to prevent staff and students being drawn into terrorism no longer requires potential external speakers to provide a detailed script in advance for vetting but colleges will be able to insist that “high-risk” meetings do not take place without proper notice being given first.

A rightwing thinktank, the Henry Jackson Society, said this week that more than 100 on-campus events hosting speakers with extreme views or a history of involvement in extremist organisations have taken place each year since 2012. Its definition of extremist includes speakers who suggest that there is a western war against Islam; who support individuals convicted of terrorism offences; or who express intolerance of non-believers and/or minorities.

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