Academic freedom and freedom of speech
This policy has been instituted in recognition of the Trust’s role as a higher education institution.
The Trust’s associated education, debate and research activities are informed by the principles outlined in this policy.
The Trust adheres to the principles of academic freedom and recognises the right of its staff and students to test received wisdom and to put forward controversial or unpopular opinions without jeopardising their positions.
This Policy has been established to ensure that students and staff involved in educational, research, events, and other activities at the Trust, are aware of their freedoms and the restrictions around their speech and expression.
This policy applies to all Trust staff, students and invited guests involved in the participation and delivery of Trust activities. These activities include meetings, extra-curricular events or related activities delivered away from the Trust’s buildings but linked to the organisation by use of its name or funding.
The Trust supports its staff and students to work in ways which are consistent with its published strategies, policies, procedures and terms of employment or study. Scholarly activity which ensures the maintenance of academic standards is supported. Within these contexts, the Trust supports freedom of teaching, discussion, research and expression. It will not threaten loss of employment of privilege for those exercising these academic freedoms.
Freedom of speech
As a national and international thought leader around mental health, the Trust is an institution where, within the law, debate and discussion may occur; where ideas may be tested and where its staff and students may challenge and think for themselves. The Trust is committed to promoting an environment in which intense inquiry and informed argument generates lasting ideas, and where members of its community have a responsibility both to constructively challenge and to listen fully.
The freedoms recognised by the Trust must co-exist with the organisation’s primary purposes: to understand and think about mental distress, mental health and emotional wellbeing. Staff and students must be mindful of the Trust’s core values and abide by its policies and procedures. As such they have responsibilities to:
- Refrain from all forms of discrimination whether on the grounds of protected characteristics or any other personal attributes. This includes the promotion of groups or individuals who incite hate or discrimination;
- To ensure that positions in debate have some grounding in scholarship, demonstrable evidence or a wider context;
- To recognise and express where personal belief impinges on debate and judgement;
- To debate in a manner which is not injurious to others or the reputation of the Trust or which is not disruptive to teaching;
- To be mindful of the personal beliefs, backgrounds and opinions of others and to avoid unnecessary distress in the expressing contrary ideas or opinions;
- To not impose beliefs on others;
- To be clear that any opinions are not those of the Trust unless communication has been officially sanctioned, by the Trust’s Communications team in liaison with other senior Trust staff as appropriate;
- To ensure that all research has appropriate ethical approval and is conducted in line with this;
- To keep an open mind and to listen to views which may be contrary to one’s own.
Duties and responsibilities
The ultimate responsibility for oversight of this policy sits with the Chief Executive Officer of the Trust, but in practice the operation and oversight of this policy is delegated to the Chief Education and Training Officer / Dean of Postgraduate Studies.
Where concerns are raised by Trust staff, students, or other members of the Trust community, an investigation will be initiated using the appropriate procedures, such as the Trust’s Disciplinary Policy or the Student Conduct Concerns Procedure.
Concerns may be raised directly with the Chief Education and Training Officer/Dean of Postgraduate Studies, via the Student Complaints Procedure, through HR or using the Trust Freedom to Speak Up Guardian.
This policy is publicly available on the Trust’s website. It will be communicated to staff and students registered with the Trust.
Process for monitoring compliance with this policy
The Chief Education and Training Officer/Dean of Postgraduate Studies is responsible for ensuring that the policy is implemented and monitored through the operational structure of the Directorate of Education & Training. Concerns around Academic Freedom will be addressed under their remit, and they will report to the Education and Training Committee, which is a specialist interest committee of the Board of Directors, on this area.
This policy has been created with reference to the Trust’s main collaborative partner the University of Essex, and its policy on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech, and with reference to the Trust’s internal guidelines on Freedom to Speak Up. It also acknowledges the Trust’s statutory obligations as set out in the:
- Education Reform Act 1998
- Higher Education and Research Act 2017
- Equality Act 2010
- Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 and the Prevent Duty Guidance 2015
- Public Sector Equality Duty from the Equality Act 2000