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Tory MP Robert Halfon quits as minister and James Heappey confirms resignation, paving way for mini reshuffle – UK politics live

Robert Halfon quits as skills, apprenticeships and higher education minister as James Heappey confirms decision to step down

In interviews this morning Gillian Keegan, the education secretary, admitted that special educational needs provision was in crisis, Ben Quinn reports.

Universities in England could be told to terminate their arrangements with foreign countries if freedom of speech and academic freedom is undermined, the government’s free speech tsar has said. As PA Media reports, Prof Arif Ahmed, director for freedom of speech and academic freedom at the Office for Students (OfS), said many universities and colleges in England have “international arrangements” – including admitting overseas students on scholarships and hosting institutes partly funded by foreign governments. PA says:

The higher education regulator launched a consultation on guidance about freedom of speech, ahead of universities, colleges and student unions taking on new free speech duties.

The guidance includes examples to illustrate what higher education institutions may have to do to fulfil their new duties – due to come into effect in August – to secure freedom of speech within the law.

University A accepts international students on visiting scholarships funded by the government of country B. Scholars must accept the principles of the ruling party of country B, and direction from country B’s government via consular staff. Depending on the circumstances, these arrangements may undermine free speech and academic freedom at University A. If so, that university is likely to have to terminate or amend the scholarship agreement.

If it means that there are people who are employed by an institute who are preventing legitimate protests or shutting down lecturers from covering certain kinds of content regarding that country for instance, or that country’s foreign policy … If that behaviour amounts to a restriction of freedom of speech within the law, and someone brings a complaint to us, then we may find that the complaint is justified and then we make recommendations …

If there are problems, universities will have to do everything they can to act compatibly with their freedom-of-speech duties. Insofar as that means a rethinking of their relationship with other countries, obviously that’s something that would be a good idea for them to start thinking about now. Continue reading…


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