Rishi Sunak to announce first free speech tsar: Cambridge professor Arif Ahmed will be tasked with waging the ‘war on woke’ – with the power to investigate universities that censor academics
- Ahmed has previously spoken out against ‘cancel culture’ on campuses
- He will become the Director for Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom
Rishi Sunak is this week expected to rubber-stamp the appointment of a Cambridge professor as a new ‘free speech tsar’ tasked with waging the ‘war on woke’.
Arif Ahmed, who has spoken out against ‘cancel culture’ on campuses, is understood to have accepted the role of Director for Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom, with the power to investigate universities which censure academics for their views.
A Government source said that Professor Ahmed – whose candidature was tipped by The Mail on Sunday in January – would ‘bring critical external experience and knowledge from the higher education sector’ to ‘promote freedom of speech and academic freedom in a practical way’.
Prof Ahmed, a philosophy lecturer at Gonville & Caius College, sparked a backlash from students by inviting feminist Helen Joyce to give a speech about her book, Trans, which criticises aspects of transgender activism.
Rishi Sunak is this week expected to rubber-stamp the appointment of a Cambridge professor Arif Ahmed (pictured) as a new ‘free speech tsar’ tasked with waging the ‘war on woke’
During last summer’s Conservative Party leadership contest, Mr Sunak promised to tackle the ‘woke nonsense’ he claimed was infecting public life.
Prof Ahmed’s role has been created by provisions in the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act 2023, which achieved Royal Assent earlier this month.
He will be appointed to the board of the Office for Students to investigate possible breaches of free speech, with the authority to recommend fines.
Recent free speech controversies have included the campaign to remove the statue of 19th Century diamond miner Cecil Rhodes from the outside of Oxford’s Oriel College because of his role in British colonialism.
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