Saturday, May 15, 2010

Academic freedom lost - and found?

There was a short article on academic freedom in the Times Higher Education on Thursday the 6th of May 2010. The article would have perpetuated some misconceptions on academic freedom (e.g., that it cannot be defined, or that it should not "give scholars the right to criticise the running of their own institutions"), had it not been for the detailed intervention of Terence Karran who made an extensive commentary just below the article, a comment I think is a must reading. Karran states that
"There are international differences in the interpretation of the concept, but most scholars of academic freedom agree it has four elements: two are substantive, and two are supportive. The first substantive element is research freedom (the right to choose the subject for research and the methodology used, and to publish and disseminate research findings). The second substantive element is the teaching freedom (including the right to determine the curriculum, the mode of teaching, the method of assessment, etc). The supportive elements are academic tenure and the right to participate in academic governance."
See Karran's commentary on the Times Higher Education site here (or a pdf copy here). In many countries, such as Denmark, there is an urgent need to promote a higher awareness of all the dimensions of academic freedom.