UCL Faculty of Laws


The Relation Between Academic Freedom and Free Speech

19 June 2019, 4:00 pm–6:00 pm

image of words 'free speech' against a concrete wall

Event Information

Open to



UCL Laws


Moot Court
UCL Bentham House
Endsleigh Gardens


The standard view of the relation between academic freedom and free speech is that they are complementary. Teaching and research in universities should be protected by the institutions of academic freedom, while the university’s broader communicative domain should be governed by principles of free speech.

After explaining some of the reasons why the relation between these two freedoms is more fraught than it appears, Dr Simpson then considers the positive arguments that might be offered on behalf of this standard view. One argument says that a campus free speech culture helps contribute to the realisation of the epistemic ends that underpin the norms of academic freedom. Another argument says that universities should serve as a kind of centre for democratic ideals, and that a culture of free speech in universities is essential in this.

Dr Simpson argues that there are shortcomings in both arguments, and he proposes another way of conceiving of the university’s communicative ideals, grounded primarily in a commitment to academic freedom and its underlying ends.

About the speaker

Robert Simpson is a Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities at UCL. Read more about our speaker.

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