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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Dan O'Donoghue

University of Salford boss hits out at government's 'cancel culture' fines

A university boss has hit out at the government's plan to introduce fines for 'cancel culture' on campuses. Education Minister Michelle Donelan has said she intends to bring forward new laws to crack down on 'woke mobs' that are apparently preventing debate at universities.

Ms Donelan, in article published on Conservative Home, said 'increasingly, university is a place where you are told what to think rather than taught how to think'.

Read more: Manchester MPs mock Russia after Putin sanctions them

She also hit out at reports of university “staff time going into putting "trigger warnings" on Harry Potter and 1984 or earnest working groups discussing whether to cancel historical figures such as Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Francis Drake or Sir William Gladstone”.

The minister said: "The intolerant woke mob have had their brief period in the sun, but it is now over. Universities, including their student unions, will face fines for engaging with or supporting cancel culture.

"Students, staff and speakers who have been de-platformed will have both a civil route and a legal route to justice – with a legal tort as a backstop to ensure that this legislation has teeth."

University of Salford Vice Chancellor Helen Marshall was sceptical of the plan, however.

Speaking to the Northern Agenda podcast, she said: "It's not a massive problem, I think the government needs to be a bit more realistic."

"It's not a space that I would support if I'm honest", she added.

But, Ms Marshall did support the principle of open debate at universities.

She said: "If someone is going to come and do a controversial speech, then that's leading to a debate on something controversial, which leads to a way forward.

"If we don't talk about it and we bury it in sand, I think that is potentially down the line a bigger problem."

The Department for Education has said that its Bill will strengthen an existing legal duty for universities to protect freedom of speech, extending it to student unions.

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