STUDENTS do not have the right 'not to be offended', the head of Oxford University has said, as she called for universities to defend free speech on campus.

Instead of complaining if they do not feel comfortable with someone's views, students should challenge that person and attempt to change their mind, according to Professor Louise Richardson.

Universities should be places where students are exposed to different viewpoints and opinions, she suggested.

Addressing the Times Higher Education's World Academic Summit, Prof Richardson said: "Universities must not be seen as bastions of a particular political perspective.

"We must be open to the expression of all legal views and be prepared to subject these views to reasoned arguments.

"As teachers, we must model to our students how to respond to views they find objectionable, not to avoid them.

"We must be robust in defending free speech against those who wish to constrain it, whether that be a government in a well-intentioned effort to prevent radicalisation, or students claiming a right not to be offended. There should be no such right in universities."

In response to a question on the issue, she later added: "I have had many conversations with students who have come to me and say they don't feel comfortable because their professor has expressed views against homosexuality. They don't feel comfortable being in the classroom with somebody with those views.

"And I say 'I'm sorry, but my job is not to make you feel comfortable. Education is not about being comfortable. In fact, I'm interested in making you uncomfortable. And if you don't like his views, you challenge them and engage with them and figure out how a smart person like that can have views like that. And figure out how you can persuade him to change his mind'.

"It is difficult but it is absolutely what we have to do if we believe in what we say."