These universities have been ranked worst for freedom of speech

16 Russell Group universities have a red rating

| UPDATED Hide Images

The 2017 Free Speech University Rankings (FSUR) by Spiked have revealed British universities are becoming more censorious.

Through a traffic light system of red, amber and green, the survey ranks the Students’ Union and university’s approach to freedom of speech by considering their stance on no platforming, equality and diversity policies, advertisements, fancy dress, safe space policies and student codes of conduct.

Of 115 universities surveyed, the four worst universities for freedom of speech came from the Russell Group, including Oxford, Newcastle, Cardiff and Edinburgh. Out of 24 Russell Group unis, 16 were ranked red and eight were amber.

Buckingham University, Trinity St. David and West of Scotland were ranked the most ‘ban-free’.

Universities marked red “actively censored speech and expression”, amber universities have “chilled free speech through excessive regulation” and green universities “has not restricted or regulated speech and expression”.

See below where your university has been ranked.

Red universities

Aberystwyth University

Aberystwyth banned Carnage because it encourages binge drinking, as well as banning YikYak on campus as the uni felt it facilitated bullying. The use of racial, homophobic, religious or disability slurs, even those that are used in a ‘joke’ context are also barred.


The university banned transphobic materials, including those in speeches, literature and music from campus. Bath SU also censored a musical comedy sketch by Comedy Writing Improvisation and Performance Society because a line about the Prophet Mohammed had caused “great offence”.


The SU have banned newspapers the Daily Star and Daily Sport as they claim they are derogatory towards women. They also ban any publication which “upholds or propagates racial/gender/sexuality-related/disability-related stereotypes or binaries”. Birmingham has a no platform policy against speakers or groups who are offensive to a race, religion, or sexuality, for example. Current groups that are banned include British National Party, Hizb-ut Tahrir, National Front, English Defence League.


Students are not permitted to wear clothing that has slogans or symbols that are offensive, such as racist or sexist and will face disciplinary action if so. The Union also has a safe space policy.


The Union has banned any songs that encourage ‘rape culture’ in university buildings. Instead, lines from the songs that do reference rape will either not be played or have the instrumental version played. The SU will also disaffiliate from any society that has committed a rape apology. Consent classes are available for all undergraduate students in halls. The university ‘expects’ students to attend workshops.


As part of their anti-lad culture policy, certain songs that are deemed homophobic or promote misogyny by the student senate, such as ‘Blurred Lines’, have been banned from playing in the SU or on the student radio station. ‘Lad’ mags or those that include ‘pornographic’ material are banned from being sold in campus shops. In the past two years, Cardiff have no platformed Dapper Laughs from speaking, and attempted to ban Germaine Greer for her views on trans people.


Durham have banned any activity that promotes binge-drinking, such as initiations. Durham also have a policy whereby any display of sexism, homophobia or any kind of prejudice can lead to disciplinary action.


Edinburgh have banned the Sun from campus and have no platformed speakers with ‘controversial’ views such as Tommy Robinson and the SWP. The SU have banned Caitlyn Jenner and Pocohontus as fancy dress costumes, no platformed ‘lad banter’ that trivialises rape, such as Uni-Lad and ‘rape apologist’ George Galloway. The Union also backed a boycott against Israel last March.


Hull has a strict trans policy whereby they will remove any materials considered to be trans propaganda. They have banned initiations as they promote excess drinking, and also have a no platform policy. Hull SU have currently banned the BNP, Combat 18, the National Front, Hizb-ut Tahrir and the Muslim Public Affairs Committee.

King’s College London

King’s recently removed a picture of Lord Carney from their alumni wall on the strand campus because of his ‘anti-gay’ views.
The uni also have strict advertising rules, whereby “religious advertising, advertising of pornography and sexual service, advertising of tobacco products and advertising of weapons and gun clubs” are banned.


Lancaster uni don’t tolerate any harassment, racism, sexism, homophobia or prejudice. Posters at the uni can’t include offensive language or break the previous policy of being racist, sexist or homophobic.


Tabacco, casinos, gambling, strip clubs or animal testing adverts are amongst the few banned from campus as part of the university’s no platform policy. Hate or facist speakers are banned from lecturing on campus.


The university have introduced mandatory consent classes. Like Leeds, Leicester have banned certain adverts, such as gambling, money loaning, bar crawls, the Sun as well as banning any hate speakers from campus.


Manchester SU banned a copy of Charlie Hebdo from the Refereshers’ Fair as the student media are banned from promoting anything that could be deemed offensive. Any speaker who uses ‘discriminatory language’ is banned from speaking. Both Milo Yiannopoulos and Julie Bindel were no platformed under the safe space policy.


The university have banned initiation ceremonies to prevent binge-drinking. They also have bans on certain adverts such as pay day loans, smoking, t-shirt pub crawls, and bans on promotional material that exposes a woman’s bum or breasts as it objectifies them for a custom.

The SU have a strict fancy dress policy. Students can’t wear costumes that may “incite hatred, mockery, or violence against marginalised groups of the student body”. For example famous paedophiles, figure who incites hatred or dressing as someone from a “marginalised groups in a disrespectful way (eg dressing as Caitlyn Jenner in a mocking way)” are not permitted. The Union also have a ban on beauty pageants, calling them ‘misogynistic’.


The Sun and Daily Star are both banned from campus as part of the No More Page 3 campaign. The uni mandate a rule against initiations, which saw the university’s football team banned from playing in the 2015 Varsity.


Oxford have banned any advertisements from ‘LIFE’ a pro-life organisation. Christ Church College further banned a debate on abortion by Oxford For Life in 2014.

The Oxford University Students’ Union have the power to remove any materials they deem offensive. Controversial magazine ‘No Offence’ was banned from being handed out to students at the Freshers’ Fair.


Transphobic or offensive religious material will be removed from campus. Anyone wearing offensive symbols or slogans can face discriminatory action. The Union hold a no platform policy and will bar any speaker who holds facist views from lecturing.

Queen Mary

Last year, the Palestine Society were suspended from university. The uni have banned pay day loan adverts, initiations, and the Daily Mail, the Sun and Daily Express from being sold campus, arguing that they did not want the Union to profit from ‘hate’.


Reading have banned initiations so not to promote excess drinking. They have a no platform policy, and will prevent any speakers that do not abide to their equal opportunities and diversity policies.

Royal Holloway

Royal Holloway prohibits any activity that encourages binge-drinking, such as pub crawls or initiations. Any person with facist views or affiliation will be no platformed from speaking or distributing recordings or materials that incite hatred. They have a zero tolerance to sexual harassment policy, which includes “unwanted sexual comments (including comments about your body or private life)… unwelcome sexual invitations, innuendoes, and offensive gestures”.


Sheffield condemn sexual harassment the same as Royal Holloway, as well as banning any songs that trivialise ‘rape culture’. They’ve also banned speakers, such as Julie Bindel, banned publications like the Sun, and proposed to ban ‘classist chants’ from Varsity matches such as “stand up if you know your Dad”.


The university has a policy to no platform anti-choice groups, saying, “anti-choice groups should not be affiliated to, funded or promoted by the University of Strathclyde Students’ Association” as they go against their equal opportunities policy.


Sussex have a no platform policy against racist, facist, sexist and homophobic speakers. They further endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, therefore no commercial goods and investments from Israel.


The university have a strict trans policy, whereby “gossiping about a trans person; ignoring an individual; passing judgement about how convincing a trans person is in their acquired gender; refusing to address the person in their acquired gender or new name” can lead to disciplinary action.

Facist and racist groups or persons are banned from speaking, including British National Party and English Defence League. Last year, the union banned an ex student who joined the Kurdish group YPG from speaking.


UEA Union have banned students from wearing sombreros for fancy dress, calling it ‘cultural appropriation’. The Sun has also been banned from being sold in the Union shops. Adverts that has ‘slut shaming’, ‘body shaming’ or that which reinforced a gender binary are all banned on campus.


Freshers have to attend a mandatory consent class during Freshers’ Week as part of the university’s aim to tackle sexual harassment. The university also conduct a safe space policy, where any racist, transphobic, homophobic, sexist, or offensive language against any student isn’t condoned.


Warwick have a strict trans policy, whereby students are told “do not add an unnecessary “-ed” to the term (“transgendered”), which connotes a condition of some kind. Never use the term “transvestite” to describe a transgender person” A person who identifies as a certain gender should be referred to using pronouns consistent with that gender.”

Songs or acts that are considered “ racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic and transphobic” are banned from the SU.

Amber universities

Aberdeen, Cambridge, Exeter, Glasgow, Kent, Liverpool, Trent, Brookes, Queen’s Belfast, Southampton, St. Andrews, UCLan, York

Green universities