UNIVERSITY of Chester students have been warned they could face legal action following a flood of messages on a social networking website criticising lecturers.

Letters were sent to 16 students following blog entries on Facebook, which the university says could be libellous.

But many students feel their freedom of speech is being impinged and think the letters are a scare tactic.

One student, who received a letter but does not wish to be named, said: 'I was shocked that legal action was threatened. It was just healthy student banter in an online blogging forum, which has taken the place of chatting in a café.

'I disagree with defamatory comments but most were not and because of the uni's measures we are now forced to vent our dissatisfaction behind closed doors.

'I see this as a fear tactic and nothing more.'

The letter, sent by director of legal services Adrian Lee, said: 'My attention has been drawn to a number of blog entries on, where I understand that comments have been posted by students which relate to certain members of staff.

'If the postings are libellous of any member of staff, s/he may be entitled to bring action for defamation.

'I would ask for reflection on the advisability of placing in the public arena comments which may adversely affect members of staff and the possible personal consequences for those involved.'

The letter also warns that five university misconduct offences may have been committed.

The entries have since been removed from the website.

Vice-chancellor Professor Tim Wheeler said: 'While fully supportive of the right to freedom of speech for students and staff, the University of Chester is also concerned about the need for this to be exercised fairly and not at the expense of others.

'The university has advised contributors to Facebook of this position, not only pointing out that abuse of social networking websites may breach disciplinary procedures but also raising awareness of the potential for legal action to be brought by individuals.'