Release type: Media Release


Review into university freedom of speech


The Hon Dan Tehan MP
Minister for Education

The rules and regulations protecting freedom of speech on university campuses will be reviewed.

Former Chief Justice of the High Court Robert French will review existing material regarding free speech, including codes of conduct, enterprise agreements, policy statements and strategic plans.

The review will:

  •  Assess the effectiveness of the Higher Education Standards Framework (the Standards) to promote and protect freedom of expression and freedom of intellectual inquiry in higher education.
  • Assess the effectiveness of the policies and practices to address the requirements of the Standards, to promote and protect freedom of expression and intellectual inquiry.
  •  Assess international approaches to the promotion and protection of free expression and free intellectual inquiry in higher education settings, and consider whether any of these approaches would add to protections already in place in the Australian context.
  •  Outline realistic and practical options that could be considered to better promote and protect freedom of expression and freedom of intellectual inquiry, including:
    • revision/clarification of the Standards
    • development of a sector-led code of conduct.

Minister for Education Dan Tehan said Australian universities were autonomous bodies that have their own policies, procedures and practices regarding freedom of speech on campus.

"Universities are important institutions where ideas are debated and challenged. We must ensure our universities are places that protect all free speech, even where what is being said may be unpopular or challenging," Mr Tehan said.

"The best university education is one where students are taught to think for themselves, and protecting freedom of speech is how to guarantee that.

"If necessary, the French Review could lead to the development of an Australian version of the Chicago Statement, which is a voluntary framework that clearly sets out a university’s commitment to promoting freedom of speech."

Mr French said: "I have agreed to undertake the Review requested by the Government on a cooperative and consultative basis with the university sector and respecting the legitimate institutional autonomy of Australian universities. An important object of the review will be the production of a resource including a Model Code which can be used as a point of reference in any consideration by universities of their existing rules and guidelines relating to the protection of freedom of speech on campus."

Universities Australia have been consulted on the review.