Stand up for Universities teaching freely on Brexit

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People being free to share thoughts and ideas on issues within society is one of the beauties of democracy. This week we learned that Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris wrote to university vice-chancellors requesting information about teaching on European affairs relating to Brexit, the name of individual staff teaching this subject, all materials used and links to classroom discussions. 

As a professor of law and government & Dean of my law school at Durham, I am appalled at to see this, and know it could intimidate academics - making them feel like the government is monitoring them. No vice-chancellor should be forced to act on this request and that's why I'm calling on the universities minister Jo Johnson to make this clear through a statement. 

Only a few vice chancellors have gone public. And thanks to them, this has been exposed. The letter has caused some parts of the press to call of information on "anti-Brexit" bias

Heaton-Harris is a junior government whip and it is claimed that he was researching for a book. He should not be using his political position, or the House of Commons letterhead in this way. 

A clear statement from the universities minister, Jo Johnson, is required to bring this unfortunate matter to an end.

We, the undersigned, call on Jo Johnson, to contact every university vice-chancellor receiving the letter from Chris Heaton-Harris MP in writing to confirm that no university is required to release the information Heaton-Harris requested. 

In so doing, he would reaffirm his government's commitment to academic freedom, debate, and the high quality of teaching standards at our country's higher education institutions. We are global leaders that should be championed not enemies to be silenced.

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