Higher education institutions specific public law obligations in governance
Produced in partnership with Kris Robbetts of VWV
Higher education institutions specific public law obligations in governance

The following Local Government practice note produced in partnership with Kris Robbetts of VWV provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Higher education institutions specific public law obligations in governance
  • Freedom of speech
  • Academic freedom
  • Prevent
  • Protection from discrimination
  • Equality
  • Admissions

Higher education institutions (HEIs) have long had a wide range of public law duties incorporated into statute or funding requirements that must be adhered to in addition to the more general public sector duties imposed on publicly funded bodies.

Recent legislative change has extended some of these duties and exacerbated tension between protected freedoms and limited rights. This Practice Note provides an overview of the core higher education (HE) specific public law duties and how they are continuing to evolve.

Freedom of speech

The right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression in HEIs has been enshrined in law since the enactment of section 43 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986 (E(No 2)A 1986). These rights are, however, limited to the extent set by the law, for example through conflict with other legal duties imposed by legislation such as the Public Order Act 1986, Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) and Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (CTSA 2015) (see Prevent below) and are not therefore absolute. E(No 2)A 1986 also requires institutions to issue a Code of Practice regarding their duty to uphold freedom of speech, keep it up-to-date and ensure it is followed.

The need for such a measure is explained by numerous cases of student unions and campaigners banning or attempting to ban high profile commentators from speaking at universities if they have controversial views.

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