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Take part in debate ahead of UK elections

Robert Van de Noort

The UK is set for a 12 December general election – the third national election in four years.

At the University of Reading, we are proud of our leading role to support democracy and civil society. We exist to educate our students, tackle global issues, engage with others, and provide a platform for open discussion and debate.

And importantly, we provide the expertise and evidence to help shape strong policies. At no time is this more important than in the run-up to a general election.

There are special rules limiting the activities of civil servants working in UK government departments and some government agencies. These rules of ‘purdah’ prevent politically neutral government staff or organisations from influencing, or being seen to influence, fair democratic elections.

It is important to highlight, however, that rules of purdah do not apply to University academics.

In the past, there has sometimes been confusion about where these rules should be applied to academics who may work with government agencies or departments. I am therefore pleased to remind colleagues, as we have previously, of the revised guidance from the Cabinet Office, making it clear that academics should not feel unable to discuss matters openly in the run-up to elections.

I am delighted that so many of our colleagues find themselves in demand from the UK government and national agencies with responsibility for key areas of public services. Of course, anyone with a specific role with government should check with that department how the rules apply to them.

But in general, now is the time to apply your expertise, talk publicly and openly about policies and issues being debated around the election, and encourage others in our community and further afield to do the same.

There will be no shortage of heat in public discourse over the next six weeks. It is our public and democratic duty to shine some light on vital issues, whenever we can.

PROFESSOR ROBERT VAN DE NOORT FSA

Vice-Chancellor, University of Reading

 

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