CONCERNS over the restriction of freedom of speech on university campuses across the UK have surfaced in Glasgow.

Pro-life students from Strathclyde University have written to the institution asking officials to intervene in a row over their rights to funding.

The letter - from the Catholic Society to the institution's ruling Court - comes after moves to overturn a ban on pro-life groups receiving financial support from the University of Strathclyde Students' Association (USSA) was rejected.

The Student Parliament voted down a request to change the policy despite arguments that restricting funding stifled freedom of speech and freedom of beliefs.

The row comes at a time when there are growing concerns that British universities have become too politically correct and are stifling free speech by banning anything that causes offence.

Last year, the University of East Anglia banned students from wearing free sombreros they were given by a local Tex-Mex restaurant because the student union decided non-Mexicans wearing the wide-brimmed hats could be interpreted as racist.

Oxford University cancelled a debate on abortion after female students complained that they would be offended by the presence of men on the panel.

And Cardiff University students tried to ban the feminist icon Germaine Greer because she once wrote that a man who was castrated would not behave like a woman, which was construed as offensive to transsexuals.

Laura Seggie, a student from the university and a member of the pro-life group, called for the Court to review the decision, which she said breached human rights and rights of freedom of speech.

She said: "We have recently been attempting to secure standing as a recognised club as part of USSA. Unfortunately, we have been denied this basic human right following a decision by the Student Parliament.

"We have been formally informed that this decision has been taken because we are representatives of a pro-life movement and that pro-life groups are denied rights of recognition and prevented from enjoying the privileges of a club or society.

"Given the firmly negative response to our application and the forceful manner in which the existing policy was explained to us, effectively banning pro-life groups, any change in the current position seems unlikely."

Ms Seggie said the society and the new Strathclyde Life Action group felt the Court should examine the situation on their behalf "as we see this as our only way to secure a potential remedy" prior to considering the possibility of legal action.

However, Gary Paterson, the president of USSA, said the students could seek a university-wide referendum to overturn the ban on funding of campaigning by pro-life groups.

He said: "The Union hasn't received an application from this particular group to join as an affiliated club. We welcome applications from all interested groups, and affiliation will be approved by the Clubs Executive if the application meets requirements and USSA policy.

"Another separate issue which seems to have been conflated with this was the attempt to change the Union's equalities policy to enable student groups to receive funding to campaign on anti-abortion issues.

"The Union has advised students who are against our long-standing and democratically set stance of supporting a women's right to choose that they have the right to take this issue to a referendum of the full student body - as of yet they have not exhausted their options.

"I strongly believe in the right of a woman to choose, and I also strongly believe in democracy; the Students' Union is a democratic members organisation, all of our rules and policy are set by students and can be changed by students; judging by support for this policy and students attitudes on women's rights I wouldn't expect such a change would occur, but I find it disappointing that this group have taken the public action they have without actually applying to affiliate to the Union or using their right as individual members to challenge our policy - and indeed, giving our members a chance to respond to their proposals."

John Deighan, chief executive officer at the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children Scotland said: "It is quite remarkable and incredibly sad that in this day and age our universities, which are supposed to be the bastions of free thinking and liberal mindedness, should be transformed into centres for intolerant censorship.

"Universities should be guardians of debate and challenging ideas. rather than banning people just because they don't like their views. The essence of free speech and open debate is at issue here."