Britain’s universities are a great success story. But now they’re under threat from the Brexit bullies – from extremist Brexiteers to the Daily Mail – and freedom of speech in our country is under threat again.
The UK’s universities earn billions for us in foreign exchange, deliver excellent education and make a world-leading contribution to research and development in countless fields.
Like much else they were already under threat from the economic impact of Brexit – potentially losing access to the EU’s research funding and discouraging the brightest and best from Europe and beyond to teach and study in the UK.
But what’s happening now goes beyond Brexit, and is about our ability as individuals, as academic institutions, to speak up for different points of view without being tracked or bullied by government. This attempt to suppress academic freedom has echoes of dark periods in history – and we don’t want the UK to go down that route.
Universities must be free to teach their curriculum and not have to run it by the most extreme anti-Brexiteers. It’s now time to #StopTheWitchHunt.
It started with a letter from Chris Heaton-Harris MP – a minister of the crown and number three in the government whip’s office – on official House of Commons stationery, asking for universities to report who was teaching European studies and to outline their syllabus.
That letter provoked outrage – as well as fear – and while the government has tried to brush off the controversy and thus far no action has been to rein him in.
But that letter was only the start. Now the real attack dogs of Brexit have joined in – with the Daily Mail attacking academic freedom on their front page and launching a dedicated email address on which non-compliant academics can be reported and – no doubt – lined up for future attack.
It’s time to stand up to the Brexit bullies and for everyone who values academic freedom to #StopTheWitchHunt.
That is why we are asking everyone to sign our petition to #StopTheWitchHunt and to write to their MP to demand they support academic freedom.
Show the Brexit bullies you won’t be intimidated.
Fight back for that greatest of British values – the right to freedom of speech, freedom of thought and the pursuit of truth over dogma.