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Academic Excellence, Free Speech and EDI

Academic Excellence, Free Speech and EDI

24th July 2024 12-1pm

Today across swathes of public life, schooling and, especially, universities, policies to promote EDI – Equality, Diversity and Inclusion – are increasingly pervasive. Already EDI enjoys the status of an official mantra upheld and enforced by publicly funded bureaucracies often through a small army of specially focussed EDI staff.

Britain’s universities owe their strength to their freedoms and their academic and cultural traditions. At the heart of scholarship, scientific research and teaching is the freedom of academics to develop their work. EDI poses a grave threat to them. There are fears that EDI restricts free speech and free enquiry, that it undermines the excellence in subject teaching and research which for centuries has marked out Britain’s universities as world leaders. Moreover, it may lead to forms of discrimination that are contrary to law including the equality legislation and that to protect free speech under the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act, 2023.

Politeia’s next event, Academic Excellence, Free Speech and EDI, will consider the background to EDI, the policies which have been developed to promote it and the impact of implementation on universities. Speakers* will include:

  • Claire Fox (Baroness Fox of Buckley)
  • Professor John Marenbon FBA Trinity College Cambridge
  • Dr Tony Sewell CBE (Lord Sewell of Sanderstead CBE)
  • Dr Edward Skidelsky University of Exeter
  • Dr Sheila Lawlor (Baroness Lawlor) will chair the event

They will consider such questions as:

  • What are the origins of EDI? Why has it been introduced into UK universities? By whom and how is it imposed?
  • What are the implications of EDI for teaching and research? How does it fit with academic values?
  • Is EDI a legal obligation? What relationship does it have to The Equalities Act 2010 and The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act 2023?
  • Does EDI damage freedom of speech in the universities?
  • Does EDI undermine universities’ supposed political neutrality?

A specialist contribution on schools will focus on pre-university teaching and how good schools encourage pupils from less advantaged backgrounds to succeed in reaching high academic standards.

The event be on Wednesday 24th July 2023, 12 noon-1 pm. If you would like to attend, please e mail with your name, position, organisation, and daytime contact phone number, and we shall reserve a place for you. If you would like to bring a guest, please provide their name, position organisation, email address, and daytime contact phone number.


Claire Fox (Baroness Fox of Buckley) is Director and founder of the Academy of Ideas. She was an MEP for North West England between 2019-2020, and became a member of the House of Lords in 2020 where she sits as a non-affiliated peer.

Professor John Marenbon, FBA, Trinity College, Cambridge. His publications include Pagans and Philosophers. The problem of paganism from Augustine to Leibniz and (for Politeia) The Battle for Britain’s Cultural Identity – against the New Normal.

Dr Tony Sewell, CBE (Lord Sewell of Sanderstead CBE) Founder and Chair, Generating Genius, Chair (2020) Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, author, Black Masculinities and Schooling and Black Success.

Dr Edward Skidelsky, Senior Lecturer (Philosophy), University of Exeter. His interests include ethics, the history of the virtues and ethics and economics. His forthcoming publication, The Language of the Virtues, will be published by Princeton University Press.