Universities across the UK have been warned that they will be blacklisted if they curb freedom of speech on campuses.

The government announced today (19 October) that they wanted universities to be a safe environment without fear of censorship, rebuke or reprisal.

College campuses which flouted the new rules could be hit by fines, suspensions or even be deregistered by the new Office for Students (OfS).

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said: "Free speech is one of the foundations on which our higher education tradition is built. It goes to the heart of our democratic values and is a principle I know universities hold dear.

"I know there is good practice out there, and am proud that some of our university leaders and academics have publicly defended free speech. But there are still examples of censorship where groups have sought to stifle those who do not agree with them.

"This is why I want the OfS to work with universities to encourage a culture of openness and debate and ensure that those with different backgrounds or perspectives can flourish in a higher education environment."

One recent example was a campaign to prevent the feminist activist Germaine Greer from appearing at a speech in Cardiff University, Johnson said that "she has every right, if invited, to give views on difficult and awkward subjects."

As part of a series of reforms, Johnson has called for more two-year courses in a bid to help cut the cost of university education for students.

At the moment, most course last for three years, and while some two-year options are available- these often cost the same as a three-year course.

The minister also called for a further clampdown on cheating and plagiarism in the university system.

Chair of the Office for Students, Sir Michael Barber said: "Ensuring freedom of speech and learning how to disagree with diverse opinions and differing views of the world is a fundamental aspect of learning at university. The OfS will promote it vigorously."