Professor Kathleen Stock: Resignation Debate

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Department: Department for Education

Professor Kathleen Stock: Resignation

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Excerpts
Tuesday 16th November 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Asked by
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Portrait Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have, if any, to ask the Office for Students to undertake an investigation into the circumstances of the resignation of Professor Kathleen Stock from her post at the University of Sussex.

Baroness Barran Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education (Baroness Barran) (Con)
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My Lords, the Office for Students informed the Department for Education on 11 November that it has decided to open an investigation into whether the University of Sussex has met its obligations on academic freedom and freedom of speech. No academic should have to fear for their personal safety, particularly as a consequence of expressing lawful views. This incident demonstrates why this Government are pressing ahead with legislation to promote and defend freedom of speech on campuses.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Portrait Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab)
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My Lords, I welcome that Answer. Professor Stock, a distinguished academic at Sussex University, essentially said that your biological sex cannot be changed by feelings of identity. For quite unexceptional remarks, she has been vilified by colleagues, abused by students, unsupported by her union and let down by the university, which was far too late to defend her. Academics in many other universities—women in particular—are facing similar abuse for gender-critical views. The noble Baroness referred to the forthcoming legislation, but does she agree that, however much legislation you have, you need confidence in our universities to show some strength in defending their academics? What are the Government going to do about that?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The noble Lord is absolutely right to condemn the abuse many academics—women in particular—have suffered recently. The Government are clear that any restriction of lawful speech and academic freedom goes against the fundamental principles of English higher education. The new Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill will strengthen existing freedom of speech duties and address the gaps that exist within the current law, including the lack of a clear enforcement mechanism. That will bring with it clear consequences for providers and student unions that breach these new duties.