Censorship Row as University Bans Talks

Source: Journal Live.co.uk – By Kim Carmichael

A NORTH East university is at the centre of a censorship row after banning an academic body from its campus.

Social workers and students were set to gather in Newcastle today for a meeting hosted by the British Association of Social Workers – The College of Social Work.

But bosses at Northumbria University pulled the plug on the event, due to be held on its Coach Lane campus, following a feud in the social work sector.

The British Association of Social Workers recently renamed itself BASW – The College of Social Work in response to Government plans to create a state-funded college of social work.

Tonight’s meeting had been scheduled to discuss the new body and its role in the future of social work training. But university chiefs said the meeting could not take place on its campus on the grounds that it had to “remain impartial”.

Hilton Dawson, chief executive of The College of Social Work, said: “I think it’s a major issue of academic importance and we’re astounded a university which trains a lot of social workers is treating an organisation which has 13,000 members as if we’re hate preachers, holocaust deniers or people who should be banned from campus.”

In a bid to let students and social workers know about its goals, the College of Social Work wants to have 220 meetings in 150 local authorities and 70 universities across the country.

Mr Dawson, a former Labour MP who now lives in the North East, says Northumbria is so far the only institution to object. He added: “Universities should encourage rational debate. We would welcome real and proper discussion and would expect to be challenged. All they’re doing at the moment is trying to stifle this important debate.”

A spokesperson for Northumbria University said: “Northumbria University’s reputation in the field of social work education is held in high regard. We are aware of an ongoing dispute between the British Association of Social Workers and the Social Work Reform Board over the future of the College of Social Work. Together with the vast majority of national higher education providers, we intend to remain impartial in these discussions.

“We have a longstanding relationship with BASW which we are committed to continuing, and we are disappointed that constructive discussions specifically relating to items on their meeting agenda which conflict with our desire to retain impartial have been misconstrued. We have advised BASW that we are happy to host future meetings on the proviso that issues relating to this dispute are not discussed at the university until nationally resolved.”

The meeting will now be held at Gateshead Civic Centre at 5.30pm.

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