A STRING of leading universities have been blasted for abusing their power after they actively urged students to vote to stay in the EU.
Top institutions such as Oxford, Warwick and Exeter have either sent emails or hosted lectures with an openly pro-EU stance — with one university even banning a Vote Leave event completely.
The move ignores Charity Commission guidelines, which say universities must remain politically neutral in the run-up to the June 23 referendum.
The institutions can only wade in on the debate in "exceptional circumstances", but even then they "should still avoid overall support for a yes or no".
Employment Minister Priti Patel slammed the establishments for stifling free speech.
The Eurosceptic said: "Universities should be a place where free thinking is encouraged but people are acting to stifle debate and encouraging a group think culture.
"It is an anti-democratic abuse of power."
Students at Oxford University accused Sir Ivor Roberts, Principal of Trinity College, of hosting a discussion simply to promote his own pro-EU agenda.
A spokesman for the prestigious university said it was "encouraging open debate on the issue" but wished to "affirm the value that the UK's membership of the EU provides to the university".
Emails were sent out to thousands of students at the University of Exeter by Vice-Chancellor Sir Steve Smith asking them to consider the "benefits" that EU membership can offer.
Language professor Melissa Percival also emailed students to say that the future of British students studying abroad could be damaged by an Out vote.
Meanwhile, an event hosted by the Vote Leave group at the University of Plymouth was banned because it wanted a "fair and unbiased" debate, but political professor David Brockington hosted a talk with three pro-EU speakers entitled ‘Another Europe is possible’.
A university spokesperson said the event had not been "intentionally biased".