• Academic freedom under threat as pro-Brexit professors face discrimination

    Pro-Brexit and right-wing professors face discrimination and are self censoring, a think tank has warned, amid fears that academic freedom is under threat. The Policy Exchange think tank has released a report claiming that higher education institutions and the Government must do much more to ensure that all lawful speech is protected on university campuses across the country. The paper, entitled Academic freedom in the UK, suggests there is a "structural discriminatory effect" against the minority of academics at British universities who identify as being on the right. Researchers warned that: "Hostile or just uncomfortable attitudes signal to those subject to such discrimination that they should conceal their views and narrow their research questions to conform to prevailing norms, if they wish to progress and enjoy a positive workplace experience," it warns. A YouGov poll, of 820 both current and former academics, found more than one in seven said there was a hostile climate towards people with their political beliefs in their department - but the figure is higher among those who identify as being right-leaning, or among those who voted to leave the EU. Just over half of respondents said they would feel comfortable sitting with a colleague who is a Leave supporter at lunch, in a meeting or in the staff room. Meanwhile, more than a third said they would feel comfortable sitting with a colleague who opposes admitting transwomen to women's refuge centres. But more than four in five said they believed academics who were pro-Remain would feel comfortable expressing their views to colleagues, the poll found. The report suggests that right-leaning academics are more likely to choose to "self-censor" compared to colleagues who are centrists or on the left. Some pro-Leave social sciences and humanities academics said they had refrained from publishing or airing views in research and teaching for "fear of consequences" to their careers, according to the think tank paper. It warns: "The challenge today is that a serious threat to academic freedom may now, in addition, arise from within universities. "This internal threat derives from the way that some in the university-both students and faculty members-relate to others on campus, being willing to penalise them on the basis of their perceived or actual political views." In a foreword to the report, Ruth Smeeth, former Labour MP and chief executive of Index on Censorship, says: "It does the country no good if our educators, our academics, our scholars and, most importantly, our students feel that they can't speak or engage without fear of retribution." The report calls on the Government to make it explicit in law that universities have a direct duty to protect academic freedom and freedom of speech. It adds that a "Director for Academic Freedom" should be created as part of the Office for Students (OfS) to investigate claims that freedom of speech have been violated, and to promote tolerance for viewpoint diversity in the sector. Universities minister Michelle Donelan said: "University leaders must do much more to champion freedom of speech, and this Government is committed to bringing forward measures to strengthen free speech and academic freedom, potentially including legislation." She added: "It is deeply concerning the extent to which students and academics with mainstream views are being silenced and discriminated against in our universities." But Jo Grady, general secretary of University and College Union (UCU), dismissed the findings of the think tank's report. She said: "The idea that academic freedom is under threat is a myth. "The main concern our members express is not with think tank-inspired bogeyman, but with the current Government's wish to police what can and cannot be taught at university." The OfS said it is planning to issue guidance on how universities can meet principles relating to academic freedom and free speech in the autumn. Responding to the report, a Universities UK (UUK) spokesman said: "Academic freedom and freedom of speech are critical to the success of UK higher education and universities take seriously their legal obligations on both. "Robustly protecting these characteristics in a constantly evolving world is of the utmost importance to universities."

  • SNP at war over ruling body's Holyrood candidate 'stitch up'

    The SNP’s ruling body is under pressure to reverse a “stitch up” which led to a leading rival to Nicola Sturgeon abandoning her bid to win a Holyrood seat. Joanna Cherry, the QC and Edinburgh MP, had been set to stand for the SNP nomination in Edinburgh Central against Angus Robertson, the party’s former deputy leader, who is also keen to enter the Scottish Parliament next year. The fight to be selected as the candidate had been seen as a proxy battle between the two main factions within the party. Ms Cherry has issued a series of thinly-veiled attacks on Ms Sturgeon’s approach to independence and is an ally to Alex Salmond, while Mr Robertson is part of the party establishment has emphasised his loyalty and close ties to the First Minister. Both would be seen as leading contenders for the party leadership, should Ms Sturgeon step down.

  • Coronavirus latest news: Screen schoolchildren using 90 minute test to keep them safe says Sir John

    Rapid tests mean entire cities can be tested to halt outbreaks Over-50s shielding reports 'speculation', minister insists NHS to roll out 'Covid-friendly' cancer drugs to clear backlog 'Rash' northern lockdown based on inaccurate data, says expert Australian city orders non-vital businesses shut to curb virus Philippines reimposes lockdown amid warnings health system could collapse Sign up to The Telegraph Global Health Security bulletin Two tests which can detect coronavirus and flu - and promise results in 90 minutes - are to be rolled out in hospitals, care homes and laboratories. The swab and DNA tests will help deal with the virus in winter, enabling clinicians and NHS Test and Trace to differentiate between Covid-19, which requires sufferers to undergo specific self-isolation, and other seasonal illnesses, the Department of Health said. But Sir John, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, who is leading the government’s ongoing search for a reliable antibody test, has said that the new quick turnaround tests should be used at schools. The leading immunologist told BBC Radio 4’s The Today Programme that tests need to be used "more extensively by the private sector" as he said there was a "huge unmet need by schools, by airports and airlines" who could screen their workplaces as well as people before they entered the premises. “If you look at schools there’s going to be a huge interest in keeping them safe the best way to do that is to screen the children at some level," he said. When asked how frequently children should be tested he added: “I think some people have said once a week should be okay but others have said less frequently. "For example, in boarding schools you could screen the kids when they came back from home and probably not screen them very often until they went home again and then screen them when they reentered the school because it acts as a large bubble.” Scroll down for all the latest updates

  • Idris Elba sparks hope of a Luther film during Bafta interview

    Idris Elba has hinted that work is underway to shoot a feature-length film based on his hit TV show Luther.The actor 47, starred in all five series of the BBC detective series and played the show's brooding namesake.

  • Len McCluskey threatens to remove funding from Labour over anti-Semitism payouts

    Len McCluskey, the leader of the Unite union, has warned Sir Keir Starmer he cannot take its money for granted after a decision to offer payouts to whistleblowers who accused the party of failing to tackle anti-Semitism. Mr McCluskey, the union’s general secretary, on Sunday warned Unite would review its funding of the Labour Party and called the payouts "an abuse of members' money". Labour agreed to pay "substantial damages" to whistleblowers who contributed to a TV expose of its handling of anti-Semitism, but Mr McCluskey said “a lot” of the funds came from his union. “I'm already being asked all kinds of questions by my executive,” he told the Observer. "It's as though a huge sign has been put up outside the Labour party with 'queue here with your writ and get your payment over there'." Under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, the party was dogged with allegations that it had failed to take action against anti-Semitism by its members. Seven former employees from the party's governance and legal unit, who were responsible for the investigation of allegations of misconduct by party members, sued Labour after it issued a press release describing them as having "personal and political axes to grind". The legal action followed the broadcast in July 2019 of a BBC Panorama programme titled “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?”. The Telegraph has previously revealed that fees and damages were likely to amount to nearly £375,000, but Labour has refused to confirm the value of the payments. Sir Keir's predecessor Mr Corbyn called the decision to settle "disappointing" and claimed it was a "political decision, not a legal one". Mr Corybn said his team was advised while he was leader that the "party had a strong defence". Labour declined to comment on Mr McCluskey's donation review threat, but Sir Keir's spokesman previously said all three candidates in the final of the party's leadership contest, which concluded in April, had agreed they wanted to see the case settled. Mr McCluskey, a Corbyn ally, also said it would "constitute a problem" for Unite if Sir Keir moved away from his leadership campaign pledges. His position included keeping left-wing policies adopted during the Corbyn regime, such as higher taxes on the wealthy, abolishing tuition fees and public ownership of rail, mail, energy and water. Mr McCluskey said: "He has to recognise that the ship he is sailing, if it lists too much to the right, will go under.”