Academic freedom study to look at protection across Europe and Africa

Lincoln researchers asking staff across the continents to take part

March 21, 2015

What are your personal experiences regarding the protection of academic freedom?

This is the question at the heart of a new survey that hopes to examine the concept of academic freedom across the world.

Researchers at the University of Lincoln have obtained European Union funding for two Marie Curie fellowships, worth about £500,000, to examine the de facto protection for such freedom. In many EU states, including the UK, the constitutional and legislative protection for academic freedom is either limited or not well defined, they claim.

The team has written to the vice-chancellors and rectors of all the universities in the EU urging them to ask staff to participate in the study.

“[Academic freedom is] a concept which most people would say is absolutely crucial to the successful operation of all universities as teaching and research organisations,” said Terence Karran, professor in higher education at Lincoln, who is working on the project.

“As the UK general election approaches, it is already evident that university funding will be a major issue of contention between the parties. Clearly the method of funding will be important to the future of higher education – so too will academic freedom, which is why it is important to undertake such a survey at this time.”

Professor Karran, who has written on academic freedom for Times Higher Education previously, said this was the first large-scale academic survey of the subject ever attempted.

“As well as studying academic freedom in the European Union, we are also undertaking a study of academic freedom in Africa, and we will be sending out letters to the rectors of 300 universities in Africa,” he said.

“Our initial research has shown that the protection for academic freedom in many African states is quite fragile, and this may be hampering their ability to develop a research infrastructure in order to facilitate economic development.” 

To take part in the survey, please click here. Translations of the survey in French and Spanish are due to be available soon.

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