Advance HE has been developing guidance for the UK sector on setting institutional policies on EDI in relation to academic freedom and freedom of speech, on protected beliefs, and on fostering good relations.
We’ve moved forward the timeline for sharing this critical part of that guidance (which is Section 3, only), on proportionate decision making and promoting good relations, to better support members at the moment. We will update and publish the remaining sections and full guidance to the sector as planned in the coming month.
This is general guidance, not focused specifically on addressing good relations and freedom of speech or academic freedom in relation to Israel and Palestine. However, the guidance is designed to be of practical use to members in this context and other areas where there are tensions between groups on campus and potential conflicts with freedom of speech and academic freedom.
Universities UK has issued a statement on escalating conflict in the Middle East. It includes:
“Campus communities across the UK will be deeply affected by the terrorist attacks by Hamas and Israel’s military response, and the tragic loss of civilian life.
[T]he priority of our member universities, is to ensure that our campuses remain safe for all our students and staff. We will do everything we can to prevent hate crime, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and intolerance, and support our universities to respond appropriately if incidents involving these take place. In line with the sector’s clear commitment to freedom of speech, it is important that universities enable and support students and staff to debate and discuss this crisis, and the most challenging issues it raises, within the law, and with respect and tolerance.”
Institutions across the UK are currently encouraging diverse communities to engage safely and meaningfully in protest and dialogue, in line with commitments to academic freedom and freedom of speech. The sector is also taking concrete steps to prevent intolerance and promote good relations between different groups.
This updated and revised guidance supports institutions to take a proportionate approach in decision making and suggests immediate, medium and long-term strategies for promoting good relations within the present legal framework. This guidance provides an overview of the ways in which Higher Education Institutions can prevent intolerance and develop a culture where relationships between diverse groups and individuals enhance the learning experience, protect freedom of speech and academic freedom, tackle harassment, and contribute to an inclusive society.
In the coming month, Advance HE will be sharing further guidance for institutions to provide technical support to members to meet the aspirations and ideas articulated in this series:
Setting institutional policies and positions in relation to EDI and FoS/AF,
Understanding protected beliefs
Advance HE is also hosting an event for those with institutional responsibility for EDI, on ensuring that their EDI activity – and their Equality Charters work in particular – positively aligns with and supports freedom of speech and academic freedom. Members can book their place here.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Conference 6-7 March 2024
The EDI Conference 2024: The future is now: Building EDI practice for the changing world of HE will provide space to rethink and refresh our approaches to equality, diversity and inclusion, share our successes, and contribute to a collective discussion about how we are shaping the future of EDI in higher education across the globe by thinking about what we are doing and need to embed in our practice now. Find out more.