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Statement from the Group of Eight – Freedom of Speech is Fundamental to High Quality Universities

The Group of Eight (Go8), Australia’s leading research-intensive universities, strongly asserts the importance of freedom of speech as fundamental to our capacity to maintain our global standing as high- quality universities.

Achieving world class status – as confirmed by the recent 2020 QS World University Rankings in which six Go8 members were placed in the top 50 in the world for academic reputation – doesn’t happen by accident. It requires the courage to be fearless in our search for knowledge, regardless of where that search may take us, and regardless of the criticism that might follow.

The Go8 has long recognised the importance of freedom of speech. In 2013 we, along with representatives of research-intensive universities from around the world, signed the Heifei statement, which asserts the fundamental importance of welcoming competing points of view. We agreed with that then and we agree with it now.

The Go8 Board therefore asserts the following:

  • All Go8 universities regard freedom of speech as of fundamental importance. We have and will protect freedom of speech on our campuses and have codes and regulations which are well suited to this purpose. Amongst other things, this means we will not tolerate no-platforming.
  • In addition to our individual university codes and regulations, the Go8 – along with other research intensive, world leading universities – is a signatory to the Heifei Statement which includes a commitment to:

A tolerance, recognition and welcoming of competing views, perspectives, frameworks and positions as being necessary to support progress, along with a commitment to civil debate and discussion to advance understanding and produce new knowledge and technologies.

  • We regularly review our approach to freedom of speech as new issues arise and in that context we welcome the report prepared by the Hon Mr Robert French AC. Go8 universities support the strong freedom of speech principles as outlined in the draft code, and are assessing how they can enhance existing codes or regulations or be adopted alongside them.
  • As the Hon Robert French noted, there is not a freedom of speech crisis on our campuses. However, there is no room for complacency on this matter, which is central to our democracy and way of life.

A full copy of the Heifei Statement can be accessed here: https://go8.edu.au/files/docs/10.10-hefei-statement- english-version.pdf

Contact: Vicki Thomson, Group of Eight Chief Executive on +61 438 047 155