Freedom fears 'not an issue'

November 4, 2005

An Australian university has disputed claims that concerns over academic freedom threaten Warwick University's plans for a campus in Singapore.

Warwick and the University of New South Wales were approached by the Singapore Government nearly three years ago to establish campuses on the island state. UNSW aims to have the first students enrolled in Singapore in 2007, but Warwick is searching for an alternative plan after the original failed to win the support of senate and council ( The Times Higher , October 21).

John Ingleson, UNSW deputy vice-chancellor for international affairs, said academic freedom issues in Singapore were never of great concern for UNSW management or staff. Questions had been raised at the university's academic board, but it had unanimously backed the scheme.

"We have a licence to offer our own degrees, to appoint our own staff on our terms and conditions, to teach whatever way we want to teach and for staff to publish whatever they want to - and that is academic freedom," he said. "Our courses, subjects and staff are not subject to any controls under the higher education legislation that applies to Singapore public institutions. We can teach how we want, and I doubt it would be any different for Warwick."

UNSW Asia would encourage the establishment of student associations that would be as free from university control as they were in Sydney, he said.

"Staff and students must respect the laws of the country they are in. However, if issues do arise we are confident that they can be worked through, and that's certainly the understanding we have reached with the Government."

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