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Theresa May Blasts Culture Of "Safe Spaces" In Universities

"I think everyone is finding this context of safe spaces quite extraordinary, frankly," the prime minister said.

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Theresa May has criticised the culture of "safe spaces" in British universities, which she warned was "quite extraordinary" and stifling open debate.

The prime minister said she agreed with Tory MP Victoria Atkins' claim that freedom of speech was being shut down by students with "a sense of righteous entitlement".

A number of universities have set up "safe spaces" on campus where certain actions deemed offensive, particularly to minority groups, are banned. That has sparked a backlash among some students who believe free speech should be protected.

At Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, Atkins, MP for Louth and Horncastle, said: "Freedom of speech is a fundamental British value which is undermined by so-called safe spaces in our universities where a sense of righteous entitlement by a minority of students means that their wish not to be offended shuts down debate.

"As students around the country return to their places of learning at the start of this new academic year, do you agree that university is precisely the place for lively debate and the fear of being offended must not trump freedom of speech?"

May replied: "I absolutely agree with you, We want our universities not just to be places of learning but to be places where there can be open debate which is challenged and people can get involved in that.

"And I think everyone is finding this context of safe spaces quite extraordinary frankly. We want to see that innovation of thought taking place in our universities – that's how we develop as country, as a society, as an economy, and I absolutely agree with you."


Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Emily Ashton at emily.ashton@buzzfeed.com.

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