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Evangelical group and Vice Chancellor of Cambridge support plans to protect free speech in universities

by Cara Bentley

Last week, Sam Gyimah, the government's minister for universities, announced plans to punish universities that don't uphold free speech and criticised the attempts to ban speakers

In the Daily Telegraph on Sunday, Prof Stephen Toope, the Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University, said he has an "agenda of openness" and is committed to universities "trying to explore the greatest questions that face the nation and humanity."

The intentions by Sam Gyimah to uphold these rights was also welcomed by many Christians.

Graham Nicholls, the Director of the evangelical group Affinity told Premier: "In general I was very encouraged by them,

"We would want to support and be very pleased about any attempt to avoid the suppresion of freedom of speech and of course I'm particularly concerned with free speech and the freedom to claim and express the gospel on university campus or anywhere else."

In recent years, there has been increasing attempts to ban speakers because of views not held by other students, such as pro-life groups or Jewish speakers.

Speaking about whether things had changed for this generation of university students, Graham Nicholls said: "I think overall it has got worse – there is a danger you get paranoid about it...but I think there has been an increase."

Graham said this is often genuine ignorance and fear about what the law is and whether they could accidentally be supporting exclusion of other groups.

You can listen to the full interview with Graham Nicholls here:

He explained he is now pleased that the minister is at least expressing a desire to respect the freedom of ideas and expression: "I think there is a bit of a change of direction with the overall education policy and that's a really good thing to be encouraged.

However, he added: "We need to use those freedoms very carefully – we don't want to hold back from saying what we believe is the truth of the bible but we certainly don't want to be saying it in an offensive way and we don't want to give the wrong impression.

"Universities are very significant cos it's a place , perhaps more than anywhere else, the disc of ideas are very important, the exchange of ideas and at a simple level a lot of people become Christians and university. "

"There is a mainstream problem but universities are a key area because they are an ideas hub."

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