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Securing Academic Freedom

November 22, 2022 at 2:00 pm - 5:30 pm UTC+0

The purpose of the symposium is to bring together those interested in protecting academic freedom in the UK to share knowledge and best practice on how to secure change from within – how to navigate university governance structures, committees, policies and other such impediments (and opportunities) in order to nurture a culture of academic freedom from the ground up.

While the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill has been welcomed by many advocates of academic freedom and free speech, legislation imposed from the top down cannot magically transform the day-to-day culture of our universities. It can, however, provide an opportunity for academics and students to begin the work of cultural and institutional change without fear of interference or reprisal.

This symposium aims to start a conversation about what change might look like, and how it can be achieved in practical terms, by gathering a congregation of academics, students, law and policy-makers, civil society activists and journalists to exchange practical wisdom on driving change from within – what has worked in the past, what hasn’t worked, and what might work.

Please do not publicise in advance on social media or share this invitation. The Chatham House Rule will apply.



From 1.30pm: Arrival, tea and coffee in The Hall at The Art Workers’ Guild

2.00pm: Welcome and Panel One: Know-how

How is university policy made? How can it be changed? How can information about university decision-making be acquired?

PANEL: Dr Arif Ahmed, Professor Dennis Hayes, Professor Ellie Lee, Dr Roger Teichmann

CHAIR: Dr Jan Macvarish, Education and Events Director, Free Speech Union

Topics include, but are not limited to:

  • challenging university policy
  • proposing new university policy
  • navigating university statutes – who interprets them, and how can they be challenged?
  • using internal petition/question procedures
  • getting the right people on the right committees
  • using freedom of information
  • using open-access information

3.30pm: Break. Tea and coffee

4.00pm: Panel Two: Networks

How can we mobilise the support of internal and external players (e.g. academics, politicians, journalists)? What is the role of unions? How to promote or resist institutional affiliations?

PANEL: Professor Alice Sullivan, Professor Eric Kaufmann, James Murray, Professor Jo Phoenix

CHAIR: Dr Bryn Harris, Chief Legal Counsel, Free Speech Union

Topics include, but are not limited to:

  • the role of unions
  • promoting or resisting institutional affiliations
  • attracting press interest
  • getting legal support
  • securing political support
  • mobilising support from academics
  • mobilising student support
  • local ‘academic freedom champions’ – a good idea?

5.20pm: Closing remarks

5.30pm: Wine reception at the venue until 6.30pm

We have booked The Lamb pub on Lamb’s Conduit Street for post-event drinks from 6.30pm.


November 22, 2022
2:00 pm - 5:30 pm UTC+0
Event Category:


The Free Speech Union
020 3920 7865
View Organiser Website


The Art Workers’ Guild
6 Queen Square
London, WC1N 3AT United Kingdom
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View Venue Website