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Education minister ‘would not want Andrew Tate to speak on university campuses’

Claire Coutinho, who has responsibility for free speech in education, has warned that activists are seeking to ‘stifle debate’ at universities.

A minister with a responsibility for free speech in education said she would not want social media personality Andrew Tate to speak to university students.

Claire Coutinho told a free speech event that activists are seeking to “stifle debate” at universities and students are being “deprived” of attending events.

The children, families and wellbeing minister said free speech is “under threat” on university campuses and visiting speakers are “intimidated” by protests.

But when asked whether Tate, who is known for expressing misogynistic views, should be allowed to address university students, Ms Coutinho said she did not think there was a place for “people spreading hate” on campus.

Speaking at a centre-right think tank Policy Exchange event, the minister, who is responsible for freedom of speech in education, said: “I wouldn’t like to see Andrew Tate speak on campus.

“But that being said, when I go and talk to schools I think them being able to debate the kind of things that Andrew Tate has talked about has been the best way to counter some of those views.”

Tate, who has nearly seven million Twitter followers, has been charged in Romania with rape, human trafficking and forming a criminal gang to exploit women.

During her speech, Ms Coutinho said: “We see free speech under threat in the very places where the most controversial debates should be taking place – on campus.”

She warned: “If we don’t bring an end to this culture of intimidation, we’re allowing an intellectual sedative to be injected into the university experience.”

Last month, the Government appointed Cambridge lecturer Professor Arif Ahmed as the Office for Students’ (OfS) freedom of speech director to promote open debate on university campuses.

His appointment came on the heels of the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act and protests surrounding feminist Professor Kathleen Stock’s talk to the Oxford Union over her views on gender identity.

Ms Coutinho said: “We’ve already seen an emboldened approach from university leaders who are fighting back where cancel culture raises its head.

“I’m delighted that Kathleen Stock –  despite the best attempts of some – did in fact speak to curious and respectful students at Oxford University recently, backed by strong action from their vice chancellor.

“I’m also pleased that students who disagreed were allowed to protest outside. Both are important.”

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
Professor Kathleen Stock after being made an OBE for services to higher education in 2022 (Victoria Jones/PA)

But in a speech on Wednesday, the education minister warned: “There are those who seek to stifle debate in our universities.

“Curious students are being deprived of attending events, visiting speakers are intimidated by aggressive protests, and in the worst cases, academics are losing their livelihoods and their reputations for the crime of expressing an opinion.

“All of this is being driven by a small group of activists who shout the loudest, activists who can fire off a lot of tweets and draft open letters, not simply to express their own opinion, but to close down a wider debate.”

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