Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Comparing Liberty and Bradford

A recent conversation about Liberty University in Virginia, USA made me realise just how liberal some of the universities in the UK are. I’m going to use this post as a way of comparing them.

Dress code

In short, Bradford doesn’t really have one. Obviously you’d be expected to dress up for graduation but while on campus there’s nothing to stop you from wearing pretty much what you like. Liberty, on the other hand, has separate codes for men and women. Women, for example, are not permitted to have any body piercings and must not show midriffs or anything revealing, and men cannot have hair that may cover the ears, collar or eyebrows at any time.

Halls of residence

Bradford has mixed halls, Liberty does not. In fact, should any member of the opposite sex be found in one of its single-sex halls, they will be reprimanded. Liberty also requires that all students under the age of 21 stay in halls; however, any students that are married must not stay in halls. In Bradford, the majority of students do not stay in halls; many are local or mature students who commute. While a considerable number of first-year students go into halls, most will move into a student house for their suceeding years.


Liberty students are banned from consuming alcohol. In fact, even merely associating with people who drink is worthy of a $250 fine and 18 hours of disciplinary community service. Students can also be fined $25 for ‘attendance at a dance’. In Bradford, we have four alcohol-serving bars on campus, some of which are open until 2am.
This might have more to do with alcohol consumption being illegal to under-21s in various places in the US, whereas the age in the UK is 18 which is the age that most students start university.
Liberty also prohibits smoking and gambling – Bradford permits smoking outside and in its bars, and has fruit machines in the bars. However, Bradford and Liberty both frown on the consumption of illegal substances like drugs.

Relationships and Personal Issues

Bradford doesn’t really care what happens with students’ personal lives, although counselling and advice is available. Liberty, despite their name, do not give students many liberties with their personal lives. Should a student be involved in satanic activity, get an abortion, spend a night with a member of the opposite sex (presumably in halls of residence) or commit ‘immorality’, they face a $500 fine, 30 hours of service and possible expulsion. Which, incidentally, is higher than the reprimands for racial and sexual harrassment. ‘Improper personal contact’, which is anything beyond hand-holding, watching a film rated either ‘R’, ‘NC-17’ or ‘X’ and being in possesion of tobacco can also lead to reprimands.


In halls at Bradford, you can play pretty much whatever you like as long as it isn’t too loud and you keep quiet between 11pm and 8am to let people sleep. In Liberty, you also cannot play anything offensive, or that is anti-Christian.
This is probably just scratching the surface. Evidently, British universities have far more liberal attitudes towards their students than some American establishments. What makes it all the more interesting is that some of the most liberal people I know at Bradford are also very commited Christians, and who would be shocked by the lack of liberty you get at Liberty.


  1. Wow. That’s extremely strict. I’m glad I went to university in England, even if it is in Bradford.

  2. You can’t really compare Liberty Uni though – it’s a Christian university whereas Bradford is multicultural. You surely go to Liberty Uni for a reason? Like the church-owned secondary schools in the UK.

  3. Oh please, I went to uni here in the USA (Iowa State University, to be exact) and it was nothing like that! =)

  4. Evidently, British universities have far more liberal attitudes towards their students than some American establishments.
    You can’t make that sweeping statement by comparing Bradford with one ultra-conservative, ultra-religious university. The vast majority of universities in the US are nothing like Liberty and just as liberal as their British counterparts – some even more so (ahem, I’m looking at *you* Arizona State University).

  5. It looks from their website that Liberty is a fairly small university, so it may be fairer to compare it with a private college in the UK than a large university.
    I don’t know of any UK establishments that are quite as strict as Liberty seems to be, but there are several that have a dress code and regulations around not bringing the college into “disrepute”.

  6. I do agree with Lordrich, American does have specific universities that follow a very strict Christian ethos (being a Christian myself, I find it a bit over the top, because imposing such rules does not solve anything other than lay down rules). So the comparison is not very accurate.
    We in the UK would never imagine a Christian uni, let alone any faith based universities, but USA being very different would actually send their children to certain places like this. I have visited a number of these universities in the USA and some non-faith based, and they are very different. The ‘secular’ universities are very similar to ours’ – with bars, clubs, and mixed dorms, gay people and with all personal freedom. Parents that I met when I was in GA all told me that they and their children actually prefer to protect their children from such ‘immoral’ places. We can’t blame them, that is what they believe in and suit them, just as Bradford, (or Leicester as in my case) was what suited us. I am not saying that you are blaming them, but the comparison is not a fair analysis. Together the middle-class white ‘Christian’ Americans actually pride themselves when they can send their children to such places where they believe will bring them up to be ‘better’ people because of such rules and strict discipline.
    Don’t forget we have all Muslim schools here (given that they are very few and they are primary schools), they have certain dress code for both boys and girls, they are taught a certain syllabus, they are asked to follow a certain moral code and are ‘protected’ form the ‘immoral’ secular schools. We cannot compare that with say my primary school – which was a very high Catholic school (with monks) or the school down the road which is simply a standard government funded school.

  7. How far is it from Liberty to the nearest cricket ground or footy club? I’ll bet that you can’t get a decent ruby anywhere near Liberty either. The ignominy of it all…

  8. Blimey! I’m shocked that a university like that would exist. But I shouldn’t be as I know USA is insane.

  9. Interesting comparison despite the differences you’d expect given the religious nature of the place. I wondered what they’re on about here with relation to the women’s suitable attire,:’Body piercing is not permitted. Earrings and plugs are permitted in ears only.’ Plugs??? And if the women are to be sooo modestly covered all the time, exactly how are they going to know about certain body peircings…
    Also, who is in charge of these fine things? What happens if you don’t / can’t pay them. And whose pocket does it lines?

  10. I see Bradford hasn’t changed in 27 years!

  11. hmm – not really a fair comparison Neil as that is not typical of an american university. However you forgot to compare the average overdraft/amount of debt in the universities and the reasons (high in the uk cos of the drinking and low in the us as they don’t have time or reason to spend it) *ducks*
    As to the reason for church schools – I went to one and was one of a very few proper christians there – the rest of them only went to church once or twice a year if that. However the standard of schooling was very high and thats why most kids ended up at the school.

  12. We have some pretty crazy Christian universitys here in the US. what made you compare Liberty? If you want another extreme try looking at a Catholic university in the US too.

  13. Okay, I’m not saying that all universities in the US are like that 🙂 . I know that the majority are probably no different to any other university, but this was just one that I’d heard about. I suppose I chose it just because I felt the name was a little contradictory – ‘liberty’ seems to be about the last thing you get there.
    Arun: You said that parents chose to send their kids there. Are you implying that in the US it’s more common for parents to choose a university or college than it is for the students to chose themselves? Would be interesting as over here generally the students decide.

  14. I had never heard of Liberty University until I had an interpreting job on their northern Virginia campus. (It wasn’t actually for Liberty, the agency I was interpreting for just needed a big meeting space.) I had no idea they were so strict – but hey, the bathrooms were spotless! I guess there’s something to be said for discipline.
    (I don’t approve of Liberty’s rules, but I don’t begrudge them the right to have them. I just wouldn’t attend school there.)

  15. Regarding whether or not parents are the ones to decide where their children go to school – in most cases it’s a joint decision between the student, his or her parents, and their bank account. In the case of Liberty, though, I expect the families who would be considering it are also families where the parents’ word is law and therefore those students probably were sent there by their parents.

  16. I have read about liberty university before.It is not a typical American school. This is a school owned by Jerry Falwell. You know who he is right? The pompous arrogant right wing conservative christian nut job who has disgraced every christian, every man, and the United States. My gripe with this school is not the fact that it has strict guidelines to follow christ. Regardless of my lack of religious beliefs, I understand that if its a CHRISTIAN college and demands that all students attend services on sunday, then those are its rules. If you don’t agree with this, and if you are not christian, don’t go there. This is fine. But all of the other stupid rules which dictate your personal life and have no relevancy to christianity is the same reason that so many people have grown disgusted by the christian coalition and right wing nut cases. Can someone please point me to a page in the bible that says you can not have a body piercing or a tatoo. Can a good christian here please explain to me exactly which commandment says “Thou shall not wear hair longer than thy ears or eyebrows, or shoulders”.
    And is there a christian here who can point me to one of Jesus’ teachings which said, “if you walk with god, and love me, who is your lord, you shall not wear SANDALS”
    A good christian would say, **** YOU, god is my boss, not Falwell. God tells me what to do, and god never said I can’t wear a t-shirt. God never said I can’t listen to Rock music. God never said I had to be a conservative republican right winged imbecile. So who the **** is Falwell to tell ANY christian what a good christian is, when he himself knows not the meaning of the word MORALITY.
    The problem is not that there is a christian university which expects their students to learn good christian values. The problem is that this is a CONSERVATIVE RIGHT WING university led by Jerry Falwell to push his own retarted political agenda and brainwash an entire generation to put his men in office.
    Any descent, self respecting christian would tell Mr.Falwell where he can shove his bogus ideals, stand up to him, and to the CHRISTIAN COALITION and say “YOU SHALL NOT GET IN BETWEEN ME AND MY GOD!”

  17. rudeboyrg: I think you summed it up perfectly 🙂 .

  18. Interesting perspectives.
    Well, being a Liberty student (and an admittedly insane American… supposedly one of my more charming qualities), I can vouch for the fact that what Neil has posted regarding our code of conduct (called ‘The Liberty Way’) and its system of reprimands is accurate and not fluffed up. However, what you read is far more rigid than what is put into practice. In practice, these guidelines are nowhere near as imposing as one would imagine them to be. I’ve been here since January of 2003, and I must say that coming from both a liberal mindset and a more or less ‘anything goes’ technical school (Earle C. Clements Job Corps Center, run by the U.S. Dept. Of Labor), I acclimated to Liberty rather well. Yes, I cannot have long hair; yes, I have to be in businesslike attire during most of the school day (8:00 AM to 4:30PM, more on this later). But in practice, functioning and actually thriving here are rather easy. Not watching R movies isn’t really that big of a deal, when all is said and done. Music can be a bit of a challenge, and I must admit I don’t strictly follow this procedure (I’m a metalhead, and I do loves me some Pantera… RIP Dime). But again, finding alternatives is an easy enough process (our bookstore sells plenty of Christian metal and hardcore, such as Norma Jean, Zao, and Demon Hunter; also, plenty of Christian basement concerts are to be had in the Lynchburg area). As for Jerry, I’d have to say I was shocked at this guy… He’s really an okay guy. In fact, I’d have to say that if you actually sit down and listen to him, he’s not the dimwitted boogieman everyone makes him out to be. He is insightful, intelligent, honest, and in all honesty, compassionate. Now, that’s not to say he doesn’t have his moments… Jerry can sometimes come off as a used car salesman. However, in convocation (i.e. mandatory chapel service Monday, Wednesday, and Friday), he is quite genuine and sincere. And funny! Jerry is quite aware of the characturization (sp) he’s been given, and is not afraid of poking fun at himself… for someone of such influence, I find humor of that nature to be a crucial characteristic. He is also not unwilling to share the stage with more colorful individuals… numerous former homosexuals have filled the pulpit, as well as former Muslims (David Nasser is one, as well as Liberty’s own Ergun Caner, who receives standing ovation the minute he walks on stage), several African-American preachers have spoken at convocation, as well as women, and yes, we’ve had more than one long haired, t-shirt and jeans-sportin, hippie lookin, pottery making folk speak to us about God. That last one may come across as somewhat hypocritical (How can Jerry let a long haired hippie on his stage, but makes his students wear short hair and business attire?), however, the dress code is meant simply as business attire. Jerry is acutely aware of the fact that looking and dressing a certain way does not make one a Christian. Knowing Joshua the Messiah is the only mark of Christianity. The primary role that dress codes and all-male/ all-female dorms and whatnot serves is to instill the principle of submission to authority, as described in Romans 13:1, Titus 3:1, I Peter 2: 13-14. While there is nothing wrong or improper about long hair, facial piercings, or whatnot, there is nothing saying that not having these is a violation of any right… at least for now, you can still be as liberal as you want both at Liberty and in America without these, and are still more than allowed to express liberal views. The primary purpose is simply to teach proper submission to authority. Jerry HIMSELF has stated numerous times that, when he dies, should Liberty stroll down the liberal path that other former Christian institutions have gone, we who were here during his time have full permission and authority to burn this mother down. When is the last time anyone quoted Jerry saying that?
    I’ll say one last thing, and then I’ll leave you all to your wares… Despite all these rules, Liberty is the one place that I’ve felt truly happy at. The vast majority of people here are friendly and easy to be around, and of all the institutions I’ve been to (U.S. public schools, Job Corps., work force, etc), I can honestly say that Liberty has the absolute lowest jerk quotient of any other place I’ve been. Liberty must be doing something right…

  19. Kevin: Thanks. That was a well written and interesting perspective. Nice to here someone from the ‘inside’ explaining the situation.