Brian Cox rejects ‘safe space’ policies and criticises universities banning speakers

He called it ‘nonsensical’

BBC presenter, Brain Cox, has spoken out against the establishment of ‘safe spaces’ in many leading UK universities. Safe spaces were intended to create tolerant intellectual environments for students. However, Cox believes that the absence of controversial speakers is actually causing increased intolerance to certain views. He says students should be challenged, not restricted to the intellectual bubble of these safe spaces.

Universities have banned specific speakers on the view that they are too extreme, but Cox believes difficult questions and lively debate is a vital part of students development. He told the Radio Times:  “I suppose they’re trying to build a less aggressive space, which I understand – modern discourse is polarised.

“But university is supposed to be a place where civilised debate takes place. If not in the university, then where do you debate the most difficult questions? So, I disagree very profoundly with the idea that there’s such a thing as a safe space intellectually at a university. It’s nonsensical to me.”

He sees university as a place to be intellectually challenged and stimulated, and calls for a less severe view of certain speakers. Indeed, Cox considers debate as the basis for liberal democracy and believes hearing alternative options helps students for their “intellectual armoury”, which constitutes a significant part of their development.

He added: “But it’s not difficult to build a debate. That’s the basis of liberal democracy. We understand that. That’s why there are lines in the House of Commons greater than two swords’ length apart, right? We’ve worked that out.”

Cox is a professor at the University of Manchester, teaching Physics. Drawing on his own experience he said: “I teach first years and I don’t see it in Physics. There’s not much room for personal opinion there. But because I’m a professor at Manchester, I do watch the way that this intolerance is growing. Which is a word that they would object to.”