Brendan O’Neill Brendan O’Neill

University challenge | 24 August 2017

Universities are now factories of conformism; only the brave and resilient will survive them

In a few weeks, a new intake of students will arrive, all fresh-faced and excited, at universities around the country. They’ll be thrilled at the prospect of escaping the wagging finger of mum and dad, eager to absorb new ideas. But I’m afraid they are in for a rude awakening. Unless they’re very fortunate, they will soon find themselves enveloped in a world that’s more censorious than stimulating and taught not to question ideas but to learn by heart the progressive creed. It will take a brave and resilient youngster to survive university with their intellectual curiosity intact.

Every aspect of campus life, from what you can say to how you should party, is minutely policed by what I called the Stepford Students in this magazine three years ago. ‘No Platform’ policies strictly govern who can speak on campus. Anybody, no matter what their political background or supposedly liberal credentials, can find themselves shunted off campus for having the wrong opinion in the eyes of the Stasi of student politics.

‘Safe Spaces’, controversy-free zones where students who find the real world brutalising can weep and hug ‘emotional support animals’ (this is not a joke), are almost compulsory. Newspapers are blacklisted: a growing number of student unions have banned the Sun, Mail and Express on the jumped-up basis that they’re racist and sexist and thus ‘harmful’. In the last academic year, even students at City University in London, famed for its journalism school, slapped a ban on tabloids. A journalism uni where you can’t read popular journalism? Thanks to the youthful jackboots of the National Union of Students, and the lily-livered vice-chancellors who bow down to them, the list of the undoable, unsayable and unthinkable grows longer every year. The adults have gone AWOL.

Any student society whose worldview isn’t a carbon copy of that of the NUS lives under permanent threat of censorship.

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