UK Minister of Universities and Science Jo Johnson argued this week that universities will be less able to make scientific breakthroughs if they don’t get rid of “safe space” culture.

Jo Johnson, the universities minister, said in a comment to BBC Radio 4’s Today program that universities must rid themselves of “safe space” culture if they want to participate in the type of critical thinking that leads to important intellectual breakthroughs.

The United Kingdom has faced a series of “no-platform” efforts in which students organize with the aim of shutting down a controversial guest lecture event.

“I think it’s important that students going through our higher education system do learn to be resilient and deal with controversial opinions, to deal with views that challenge their most profoundly held beliefs or views that simply make them uncomfortable,” he said.

Johnson emphasized that universities will be restricted in their ability to come to important conclusions if academics feel that they must curtail their inquiry to meet certain politically correct guidelines.

“Because if we fail to do that we will soon be on a slippery slope that ends up with a society that is less able to make scientific breakthroughs, less able to be innovative and frankly less able also to resist injustice. We need people to be able to deal with the uncomfortable,” he continued.

“Other manifestations of this erosion in the form of the removing certain books from libraries and the drawing up a list of extensive lists of trigger words that are undermining the principle of free speech in our universities,” he said.

Johnson’s next stop on his pro-free speech on campus tour will take him to a Jewish cultural festival in Birmingham. “In universities in America and worryingly in the UK, we have seen examples of groups seeking to stifle those who do not agree with them,” Johnson argues.

“We must not allow this to happen. Young people should have the resilience and confidence to challenge controversial opinions and take part in open, frank and rigorous discussions,” he finished.

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