- ”I have the right of academic freedom!” is a claim often made by university teaching and research staff, both in the UK, and elsewhere, when they feel that their ability to undertake their duties of teaching and research as they see fit is under attack. However, very frequently, such self-righteous appeals to this apparently ancient right, are made by those who neither understand what the term “academic freedom” encompasses, nor realise that their legal right to this freedom is very limited indeed. In this seminar, I will examine the historical roots of academic freedom, and its role within the modern research university, before examining the need for a working definition of, and adequate protection for, academic freedom. Finally, I will argue that academic freedom is not an extravagant luxury but an essential liberty which is important to university staff and students, but also to universities and the world at large.
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