V-cs call on peers to fight corner

November 18, 2005

Vice-chancellors have mobilised peers to defend academic freedom as the Terrorism Bill enters the House of Lords on Monday, writes Tony Tysome.

The move comes amid fears that issues affecting academic freedom and access to library material raised by the Bill could become submerged by political conflict over high-profile controversies such as the 90-day detention proposal, as they did during the Commons stages.

Universities UK will call on Lord Tugendhat, chancellor of Bath University; Baroness O'Neill, a Cambridge University philosophy professor; Lord Wallace of Saltaire, a London School of Economics lecturer; Baroness Sharp of Guildford, the Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman; and Baroness Warwick, UUK's chief executive, to mount an attack on four key clauses.

If left unchanged, the clauses could put academics and librarians at risk of unwittingly falling foul of the law, by being involved in research, teaching or dissemination material deemed to glorify terrorism.

A UUK spokesman said: "There is a danger the academic freedom issues will be submerged once again, because it is such a controversial Bill. The worry is that the politically sensitive clauses will bring about a game of Ping-Pong between the two houses, and the clauses we are most concerned about will be left unamended."

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