Guidance for staff during the pre-election period of sensitivity

As the pre-election period of sensitivity begins, the Public Affairs team has issued guidance for University staff.

Whilst the University must retain political neutrality and independence because of its charitable status, freedom of speech remains vital. The University recognises that staff may be called upon to use their expertise to help inform debate, and encourages them to do so.

Therefore, it is imperative that if you are commenting on or supporting a particular political party, policy or candidate, it is made clear that these views are your own, so that the University’s impartiality isn’t compromised.

If you have any queries regarding the guidance issued, and to ensure there are no conflicts of interest or any potential confusion about whether an individual is speaking on behalf of the University or in a personal capacity please contact the Public Affairs team:

What is the pre-election period of sensitivity? 

The pre-election period of sensitivity is between when an election is announced (or when Parliament is dissolved or ‘prorogued’, if this is later) and the date the election is held, which this year is: Thursday 30 May to Thursday 4 July.

After this period starts, members of parliament (MPs) lose their jobs and either decide to leave politics, campaign for re-election in their constituency or run for a different seat. There are therefore no longer any serving MPs, only prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs).

Unlike MPs, ministers remain in office and in charge of their departments following the dissolution of parliament until the new government is formed, but with some limitations on what they can do to prevent them taking advantage of their position for party political purposes.

No government business is conducted during this period, but the civil service continues to work under strict rules while election campaigning takes place, to ensure a smooth transition.

What the University CAN do: 

As the University has charitable status, it is subject to some restrictions during this time period and should adhere to guidance from the Charity Commission on remaining politically neutral. Universities UK have published guidance, which offers some examples of activities that universities and researchers can participate in. These include:

  • Campaign on and support issues that they have spoken about before.
  • Host debates between candidates (with some caveats – see below).
  • Speak to candidates about their views on certain issues (with some caveats).
  • Promote and publish research on topical issues that will help inform public debate or as part of usual academic activities.

Essentially, in most instances, the University and our academics are able to act as they would normally do.

What the University CANNOT do: 

However, as a politically impartial and independent organisation, the University should not:

  • Advocate for or endorse the views of any individual party or candidate.
  • Explicitly compare the University’s views to those of individual parties or candidates.
  • Donate funds to any individual party or candidate.
  • Allow the University to be cited in a candidate’s manifesto or publicity materials.
  • Only interact with/offer opportunities to a single party or limited range of candidates.

The key principle underpinning this guidance is that the University as an institution cannot be seen to be endorsing or criticising political parties or candidates, or seek to influence the voting public.

What academics CAN do: 

The University is bound by the Charity Commission guidance regarding political impartiality because of its charitable status. However, UoB remains committed to the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech and expression, and academics can, and should, use their expertise to help inform debate. Individual academics are therefore able to:

  • Comment on a party’s policy announcements, but they should make it clear that they are doing so as an individual academic and that they are not speaking on behalf of the University or their department (Consequently, any commentary should not be promoted on corporate channels).
  • Take part in political activity and show their support for a particular party or candidate as an individual.
  • Meet or correspond with candidates and political figures during the pre-election period of sensitivity. However, to ensure political balance, it is advisable that they at least try to meet with a wide range of candidates.
  • Contribute to political debate and be politically active if they choose to, provided that the University’s resources are not being used for this purpose.

What academics CANNOT do: 

While academics are permitted to engage in public debate under academic freedom and freedom of expression, they should not compromise the University’s political impartiality in the process. As such, they should not:

  • Use their position at the University while campaigning or to endorse a candidate.
  • Speak for the University or imply they are doing so.
  • Use University resources for partisan purposes, including social media accounts.
  • Distribute partisan materials at work or campaign in the workplace.

If you are approached by a party or candidate during the pre-election period, or are planning any events, whether virtually or in person, involving any political representative (including candidates not affiliated with a political party), please contact the University’s Public Affairs team:

If you are thinking of standing for Parliament, special rules apply, and you can receive advice from your local HR Team or by logging a case via the HR Portal.


Professional Services