External Speaker and Events Policy

1. Introduction

1.1 Free speech and academic freedom are core values of the higher education sector. Free speech does not exist in a vacuum; freedom of speech works in tandem with other laws and rights. As a Higher Education Provider, Results Consortium Limited has a responsibility to balance free speech duty with responsibilities to safeguard the dignity and respect of students and staff (as laid down in the Equality Act 2010 and other related legislation).

1.2 As an academic institution, Results Consortium Ltd. (thereafter ‘the College’) recognise the importance of visiting speakers and the diversity of experience, insights and opinion they bring which will enrich our events and activities and spark discussion and debate among our students, staff and visitors. The purpose of this policy is to set in place a framework for visiting speakers to ensure that our college encourages free debate and enquiry

1.3 An environment where intellectual and scholarly freedom can thrive is essential to our core mission; to our teaching, to our research and to the experience we offer our students.

1.4 Freedom of speech is fundamental to all employees and students. The College must protect the expression of opinions, within the law. As a matter of law, all HE providers, have a statutory duty to secure both freedom of speech (Education (No 2) Act 1986) and Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act 2023, as well as academic freedom (Education Reform Act 1988), enabling new ideas to be advanced and encouraging open and free debate. Accordingly, and in line with its statutory obligations the college has a Code of Practice on Freedom of Speech. This Code is binding on all employees and students at the college. Nothing in this External Speakers and Events Policy is intended to, or should, be interpreted as interfering with the rights and obligations set out in that Code of Practice.

1.5 The definition of academic freedom is set out in the Education Reform Act 1988 and states that UK academics ‘shall have freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom and put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs’. The college’s commitment to protect the principle of academic freedom is set out in its Instruments of Governance.

The 2023 Freedom of Speech Act states that HE providers must take reasonable practicable steps to:
• ensure that the use of the provider’s premises is not refused because of a person’s ideas or opinions, or a body’s policy or objectives;
• secure academic freedom for academic staff. Staff must not be put at risk of losing their job, privileges, promotion or a different job at the provider. In addition, external applicants for an academic role at a provider must not be put at risk;
• ensure that individuals or bodies that use the provider’s premises are not required to bear some or all of the costs of security except in exceptional circumstances; and
• ensure that the provider does not enter into non-disclosure agreements with members, staff and students and visiting speakers in relation to complaints of sexual abuse, harassment or misconduct, or other bullying or harassment complainants

External speakers play an important role at the College, not least as part of the regular academic experience, allowing students and staff to be exposed to a range of different ideas, beliefs, and opinions. They also play a significant part in our student engagement programme of activity and within our students’ own events and activities. The presumption will be to permit external speakers to speak on our premises or at suitable events with appropriate mitigation or safeguards in place where necessary

1.8 Although most speakers are uncontroversial, some will express contentious, even inflammatory, or views that some may find offensive. In some cases, their presence on campus may be divisive. However, whilst the law promotes and protects freedoms of speech and debate, the law also places limits on those freedoms. Crucially the protection of freedom of speech does not extend to allow a speaker to break the law or breach the lawful rights of others e.g. using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, particularly with a view to incite hatred or draw others into terrorism. N.B. It should be noted that these provisions do not create a broad right not to be offended; the expression of views which some people may find objectionable or offensive is not prohibited generally by law.

1.9 The External Speakers and Events Policy exists to protect the rights and freedoms of our students, staff, and visitors, and to ensure that the college balances this with its legal requirement to secure freedom of speech.

1.10 The policy covers all events hosted by the college and events hosted by client organisations that take place on our premises. Also covered by this policy are events taking place off campus, where the college is hosting (or co-hosting) an event. This includes at venues in the UK or at institutions or establishments overseas. Whilst the legal framework will differ in other countries, all activities led or hosted/co-hosted by the college, irrespective of where in the world they take place, should uphold this policy unless to do so would breach that countries’ law. Any breach of the policy may pose significant risk of reputational damage even if, within a particular country, the law is not broken.

1.11 This policy and associated processes must be applied in all cases where a platform is being given to any external speaker or group of speakers. This might include, but is not limited to: public lectures, research seminars, student society events, meetings, debates and academic conferences.

1.12 The External Speakers and Events Policy and approval process will be continually reviewed and updated in response to legislative changes and other factors. It is the responsibility of those organising events to ensure that they are acting in accordance with the most recent version of the Policy, which will be published by the college on its website.

2 Procedures for organising an event

2.1 Anyone (staff or student) organising an event that involves an external speaker or speakers to be hosted by the College (on campus or elsewhere) or to be hosted at the College’s own campus or within any of its premises must ensure that the college’s External Speakers and Events Policy is followed.

2.2 An event includes any gathering that involves an external speaker addressing a group, including in a teaching, learning or research setting (class, conference, seminar) or in the context of extracurricular activity.

2.3 The person organising the event must:
• Undertake a first assessment of the proposed external speaker (as set out below) and, if there are any concerns, escalate the decision about whether to invite that speaker as set out in the booking process.
• Ensure that all speakers are made aware of and given a copy of the policy.

2.4 Failure by a member of staff or student to comply with this policy will be treated very seriously and may be subject to formal action under the College’s normal disciplinary processes for staff and students.

3 External Speaker Booking Process

3.1 Anyone organising an event as described above must follow the External Speaker Booking Process.

3.2 Most external speaker requests will be straightforward and can be handled entirely at a departmental level. However, some may be complex and may require referral for further consideration. The referral process will only apply in a minority of circumstances to events or speakers deemed to be higher-risk.

3.3 Prior to the confirmation of any external speaker, the event organiser will be responsible for assessing the speaker against the following set of questions:

Question 1: Has the speaker previously been prevented from speaking at Results or another HE provider, or similar establishment, or previously been known to express views that may be in breach of the External Speakers and Events Policy?
Question 2: Does the proposed title or theme of the event present a potential risk that views/opinions expressed by speakers may be in breach of the External Speakers and Events Policy?
Question 3: Is the proposed speaker/theme likely to attract attendance from individuals/groups that have previously been known to express views that may be in breach of the External Speakers and Events Policy?

If the answer to all three questions is NO:
The event organiser can confirm the external speaker and ‘book’ them to speak at their event or activity in the normal way. (It is required that the external speaker be sent a copy of the External Speakers and Events Policy).

If the answer to any of the questions is unclear:
The event organiser must seek guidance from their line manager or the Principal whose responsibility it will be to further review the speaker(s) against the questions above.

Ultimately, if the answer to any of the questions is YES:
It is the responsibility of the event organiser to submit a referral to the Principal to make a speaker referral submission.

3.4 In some circumstances, after full consideration of possible mitigating actions, there may be grounds for refusing a request. Grounds for refusal include, but are not limited to, situations where the external speaker may:
• incite those attending to commit a criminal act
• lead to the unlawful expression of views
• be in direct support of an organisation which is proscribed or whose aims and objectives are illegal
• undermine the College’s reputation or its values or compromise its ability to comply with its legal and regulatory obligations as a Higher Education provider

Managing external speakers

4.1 Any external speaker hosted by the College (on campus or elsewhere) must be aware of, and comply with, the External Speaker and Events Policy. It is the responsibility of the person who is organising the event to ensure that the speaker receives the policy and has their attention drawn to its contents.

4.2 The person organising the event must ensure that visitor signing in and identification procedures are adhered to. They should be informed of parking restrictions and other important information and protocols relevant to the site.

4.3 External speakers must be made aware of health and safety procedures and fire and emergency evacuation procedures.

4.4 If speakers charge a fee for their services, cost must be pre-approved and payment of invoice organised promptly after their visit.

5 Mitigation measures

5.1 Mitigation measures may be required for an event to be allowed to proceed, which could involve changes to the event structure.

5.2 Examples of mitigation measures may include:
• varying the time and/or location of the event
• imposing requirements about how the event is chaired
• requiring there to be additional speakers to provide an opposing view
• making the event ticketed only with ID presented
• opening the event to the public
• requesting an advanced copy of the guest list for review before the event takes place
• imposing other conditions on how the event is run as deemed necessary by the Senior Leadership Team and the Designated Safeguarding and Prevent Lead.

6 Complaints procedure

6.1 If an individual (staff, student, or external visitor) considers there to have been a breach of this policy, they have the right to make a formal complaint, in writing, to the Principal.

6.2 A complaint may include:
• Being prevented from arranging, speaking at, or attending an event of the type envisaged by this policy.
• Alleged infringements of freedom of speech; and
• Allegations that an external speaker at an event of the type envisaged by this policy breached or is likely to breach the external speaker code of conduct.

6.3 From August 2024, the OfS will investigate all complaints relating to freedom of speech. Further guidance will be published on the OfS website following consultation from January to March 2024.

6.4 The College will promote the complaints procedure, using the language provided by OfS, from August 2024. Student induction, student representative meetings, staff meetings and staff contracts will be used as vehicles for Promotion of the procedure.