EDINBURGH University has pledged to take action against student and staff protesters who caused the cancellation of a gender-critical documentary – accusing them of preventing “freedom of speech” on campus.

Professor Peter Mathieson, the principal of the university, said protesters had forced the institution to cancel a screening of the film Adult Human Female, a film which bills itself as exploring the “clash between women’s rights and trans ideology”.

Trans rights activists blocked access to the Gordon Aikman lecture theatre which was due to host the screening, organised by the group Edinburgh Academics for Academic Freedom (EAFAF).

A previous planned screening had been cancelled under similar circumstances.

READ MORE: Transgender students speak out over Adult Human Female screening

Prof. Mathieson expressed his “extreme disappointment” that the screening had to be abandoned “because of safety concerns for attendees”.

In a statement on the Edinburgh University website, he said: “I want to reassure the university community that we will take all steps available to us to fully investigate those who were responsible for the disturbances and to explore routes of action that can be taken to ensure we are not in this situation again in the future.

“We condemn the actions which prevented freedom of expression and freedom of assembly on our campus.

“Upholding freedom of expression and academic freedom, and facilitating an environment where students and staff can discuss and debate challenging topics is at the heart of our purpose as a university.

“We remain steadfast in our determination to continue to foster this type of discussion, both within our community and with interested parties in the Edinburgh community and beyond.”

READ MORE: Adult Human Female screening cancelled for second time as activists block entrance

The principal added that discussing “controversial topics” was essential to the university’s “raison d’etre” and said the institution had set up a group to up hold “freedom of expression and academic freedom”.

He added: “It is unfortunate and disappointing that last night attendees were again prevented from being able to gather and discuss these issues on our campus.

“We worked with organisers of the event and leads of organisations representing those who wished to participate in peaceful protest at the screening of the film, putting increased measures and extra security in place to mitigate risks, whilst ensuring that all were in a position to express their views, including respecting others with differing perspectives.

“Despite these significant additional measures, a small handful of disruptive protesters restricted access to the venue preventing the organisers from holding the event, and leading to increased tensions and safety concerns.

“We appreciate the strong, and differing, feelings across our community with regard to the screening of this documentary. However, it is important that views can be heard, that individuals are not prevented from exercising their rights to freedom of speech and assembly by others in our community, and that all members of our university are treated with dignity and respect, including by those who disagree with them.

“It is my sincere hope that we can put behind us the display of intolerance we witnessed this week, and that we can move towards building a more mature, listening community that is true to our values and our purpose.”

University staff had organised a protest against the screening through the Staff Pride Network – but that organisation stressed they had not been involved with those who had physically blocked access to the lecture theatre.

A spokesperson for the Staff Pride Network told The National: “Our protest did not block the doors to the building, we simply staged a demonstration of disagreement with content of the film and what screening it represents and showed our support for trans and non-binary staff and students at the University of Edinburgh.”

They added: “Our protest was exercising our freedom of expression. We don't believe there are grounds to take action against our protest and cannot comment on the actions of the protesters who sat in front of the doors as we were not directly involved in that action.”

A statement defending activists who previously blocked a planned screening of the film had been circulated by the Staff-Student Solidarity Network Edinburgh group, though it is not known whether this organisation was involved in the demonstration itself.

The statement had described the film as transphobic and reliant on a “disturbing” lack of evidence.