No Platform

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No Platform, in the UK, is a form of student boycott where a person or organisation is denied a platform to speak. The British National Union of Students (NUS) established its No Platform policy in April 1974.[1] Like other No Platform policies, it asserts that no proscribed person or organisation should be given a platform to speak, nor should a union officer share a platform with them. The policy traditionally applies to entities that the NUS considers racist or fascist, most notably the British National Party,[2] although the NUS and its liberation campaigns have policies refusing platforms to other people or organisations. The policy does not extend to students' unions who are part of NUS, although similar policies have also been adopted by its constituent unions.[citation needed]

Policy content[edit]

The No Platform policy, as defined in the NUS's articles of association, provides that no "individuals or members of organisations or groups identified by the Democratic Procedures Committee as holding racist or fascist views" may stand for election to any NUS position, or attend or speak at any NUS function or conference. Furthermore, officers, committee members, or trustees may not share a platform with any racist or fascist.[3] The list of proscribed organisations, as of April 2015, includes the following organisations:[4]

The NUS also has policy refusing platforms to people or organisations for other reasons: the NUS LGBT Campaign (and formerly, also the Women's Campaign) refuses platforms to those they consider to be transphobic, including Julie Bindel;[5] and the National Executive Committee has a policy refusing a platform to those it considers to be rape deniers or rape apologists, following George Galloway's statements about rape when asked about the allegations of sexual assault facing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.[6]


The policy attracts criticism from people who consider it to be censorship. Students' unions in Durham, Leicester, Newcastle and Salford have all had attempts[when?] to overturn No Platform policies.[7] In 2013, the London School of Economics Students' Union General Meeting voted, 431–172, to reject No Platform.[8][better source needed]

In 2007, debate surfaced[vague] in the University of Oxford about the policy when British National Party leader Nick Griffin was scheduled to appear on the university's student radio station, Oxide Radio. At that time, the station did not have editorial independence from its parent company, Oxford Student Services Limited, the commercial subsidiary of the Oxford University Student Union. OUSU backed the NUS decision,[clarification needed] but in 2007 the Oxford Union (the debating society, which is self-governing, not affiliated to either OUSU or the NUS, and indeed independent of the University of Oxford, in spite of most of its members being from that institution), invited Nick Griffin along with British writer and Holocaust denier David Irving to speak. Members of the Student Union picketed the debate and some protesters broke into the Union chambers before being ejected by security.[9] Subsequently, Oxide Radio was granted editorial independence from OUSU.[citation needed] In a similar way, the Cambridge Union opposes the principle of No Platform in both its actions[10] and laws,[11] despite its support by the Cambridge University Students' Union.[12] In the past, this policy has resulted in student protests against the hosting of speakers such as Universities Minister David Willetts, government minister Eric Pickles[13] (during which the building was broken into), Marine Le Pen[10] and Julian Assange.[14]

In February 2010, the NUS was heavily criticised[by whom?] after two of its officers forced a proposed debate on multiculturalism at the University of Durham to be cancelled.[15] The debate, organised by Durham Union Society, was to have featured two prominent British National Party members: Andrew Brons MEP and Leeds City Councillor Chris Beverley.[16] Upon hearing of BNP involvement in the debate, then-NUS Black Students' Officer (and future MP) Bellavia Ribeiro-Addy, and NUS LGBT Officer Daf Adley, jointly sent a letter to both Durham Union Society and the university demanding its cancellation. The pair incorrectly stated that the debate would be illegal and threatened to organise a "colossal demonstration" in tandem with Unite Against Fascism, adding that "if any students are hurt in and around this event responsibility will lie with you".[17][irrelevant citation] The subsequent cancellation of the debate by Durham Union Society President Anna Birley on safety grounds was met with fierce backlash. NUS President Wes Streeting was prompted to personally appear before Durham Union Society to apologise for the actions of the officers concerned, while some Durham students protested outside the debating chamber.[18] A protest group on Facebook quickly amassed over 2,500 members. An official petition was soon lodged with Durham Students Union to call for a referendum on disaffiliation from NUS.[19] On 12 March 2010, the referendum concluded with a majority of voting students having voted to disaffiliate.[20] In January 2011, they decided to reaffiliate.[21]

Legislative response[edit]

Section 43 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986, enacted in response to the rise of No Platform policies in the mid-1980s,[22] imposes a duty on universities to ensure that groups and individuals are not denied the use of facilities on account of their beliefs or views.[23] In February 2021, the Conservative Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, announced that the government would bring forward a law to extend this duty to students' unions.[24] The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill was announced in the 2021 Queen's Speech and given its First Reading before Parliament accordingly on 12 May 2021. The bill would allow speakers at universities to seek compensation for no-platforming, impose fines on universities and students' unions with No Platform policies, and establish a new ombudsman charged with monitoring cases of no-platforming and academic dismissals.[25]


  1. ^ Smith, Evan (2020). No Platform: A History of Anti-Fascism, Universities and the Limits of Free Speech. Abingdon: Routledge. p. 86. ISBN 9780429847813.
  2. ^ "Stop the BNP". National Union of Students. Archived from the original on 2013-10-07. Retrieved 2015-10-10.
  3. ^ "site @ NUS connect" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2016-01-05. Retrieved 2017-02-25.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  4. ^ "NUS National Executive Council AGENDA" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2014-09-30. Retrieved 2017-02-25.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  5. ^ "Microsoft Word - LGBT_2007-11.doc" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2013-12-28. Retrieved 2017-02-25.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  6. ^ Dina Rickman "George Galloway Banned By The NUS For Julian Assange 'Rape' Comments", The Huffington Post, 27 September 2012
  7. ^ "Welfare Zone Policy 2010-2012" (PDF). National Union of Students. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2013-12-12. Retrieved 2015-10-10.
  8. ^ "And the results are in | LSE Students' Union Tumblr". Retrieved 2015-09-27.
  9. ^ Taylor, Matthew (2007-11-27). "Irving and Griffin spark fury at Oxford Union debate". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
  10. ^ a b "Marine Le Pen sparks Cambridge protests". Telegraph. Retrieved 2015-09-27.
  11. ^ "The Constitution". The Cambridge Union Society. Retrieved 2015-09-27.
  12. ^ Wells, Oriel (2012-11-14). "CUSU seeks to block Assange (Secretly)". The Tab Cambridge. Archived from the original on 2014-09-03. Retrieved 2015-09-27.
  13. ^ "Outrage over student protest at Cambridge Union – Union security staff "Out of control"". The Cambridge Student. 24 May 2011. Retrieved 2015-09-27.
  14. ^ "Protest planned over Julian Assange appearance". Cambridge News. 2012-11-15. Archived from the original on 2015-09-28. Retrieved 2015-09-27.
  15. ^ "Security concerns stifle free speech". Archived from the original on 2010-02-18. Retrieved 2010-05-31.
  16. ^ "The British National Party — Blog — Labour Party thugs dictate what university students can listen to". Archived from the original on 2010-04-29. Retrieved 2017-02-25.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  17. ^ "Multiculturalism Debate & Potential Anti-Fascist Protests - Van Mildert JCR". 2010-02-02. Archived from the original on 2011-03-09. Retrieved 2010-05-31.
  18. ^ "Student union apologises over BNP claim (From the Northern Echo)". 2010-02-10. Retrieved 2010-05-31.
  19. ^ "NUS mis-handling prompts backlash". 2010-02-08. Archived from the original on 2010-04-18. Retrieved 2010-05-31.
  20. ^ Results for Should DSU be affiliated to the National Union of Students? in NUS Affiliation
  21. ^ Johnson, Daniel (28 January 2011). "60% vote to reaffiliate with NUS". Palatinate Online. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  22. ^ Smith 2020, p. 135.
  23. ^ Suterwalla, Azeem (2021-02-17). "Free speech in Universities". Monckton Chambers. Retrieved 2021-05-14.
  24. ^ Hazell, Will (2021-02-16). "Government to fine student unions for 'no platforming', as Gavin Williamson announces 'free speech champion'". i. Retrieved 2021-05-13.
  25. ^ "Universities could face fines over free speech breaches". BBC News. 2021-05-12. Retrieved 2021-05-13.

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