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1 Academic Freedom: Why do we need a Magna Charta? Higher Education Research Group Seminar, University of Oxford, 1 st December 2009 Dr. Terence Karran.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Academic Freedom: Why do we need a Magna Charta? Higher Education Research Group Seminar, University of Oxford, 1 st December 2009 Dr. Terence Karran."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Academic Freedom: Why do we need a Magna Charta? Higher Education Research Group Seminar, University of Oxford, 1 st December 2009 Dr. Terence Karran University of Lincoln

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3 3 THE HISTORICAL ROOTS OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM THE HISTORICAL ROOTS OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM VON HUMBOLDT: The modern research university VON HUMBOLDT: The modern research university THE NEED FOR A WORKING DEFINITION THE NEED FOR A WORKING DEFINITION THE NEED FOR ADEQUATE PROTECTION THE NEED FOR ADEQUATE PROTECTION ACADEMIC FREEDOM IS IMPORTANT: to staff, students, universities and the world at large. ACADEMIC FREEDOM IS IMPORTANT: to staff, students, universities and the world at large. Academic Freedom: Why do we need a Magna Charta?

4 4 Historical Roots Universities grew up as guild institutions during the middle ages, owing many of their traditions to monastic life. University of Bologna: First University in Europe. Autonomy was vested in the student universitas, professors were hired by the students, who also elected the Rector. In the examination of candidates for degrees, the Professors authority was paramount, in all other areas the students reigned supreme.

5 5 Historical Roots From the earliest times, universities were subject to external control by the monarchy, the city states and the Church. In 1217 the students of Bologna University held the city of Bologna to ransom by withdrawing from the city for three years, until such time as their various demands for greater control over the studium and the life of the town itself were met.

6 6 Historical Roots At the University of Paris, founded at about the same time, the emphasis was on freedom to teach, and applied to the Professors. In 1229, the Great Dispersion of staff and students from Paris to Angers, Orleans and Oxford, led to scholarly liberty being acknowledged as a university right. In 1231, Pope Gregory IXs famous bull, the magna carta of the University of Paris, Parens Scientiarum lead to scholarly liberty being acknowledged as a university right.

7 7 Historical Roots The Church, the monarch and latterly the nation state, provided academic freedom so that knowledge could flourish, by the process of critical debate, and because when they imposed restrictions on academics, the academics responded by moving away. From Paris to Oxford, Oxford to Cambridge, Cambridge to the USA. The relationship between the emerging universities and the Catholic Church was particularly difficult.

8 8 Libertas Philosphandi The philosopher Giordano Bruno, who developed Copernicanism into a theory of infinite worlds, had spoken of the ideal of philosophic freedom (philosophica libertas) when he came to take his leave of Wittenberg University in 1588; in his letter to the Rector of Paris University in the same year, he depicted himself as the sort of person to whom there might be granted philosophic licence (liceat philosophice) to judge freely in philosophy (in philosophia libere opinari) and to publish his own opinion.

9 9 Perchance you who pronounce my sentence are in greater fear than I who receive it. Response by Giordano Bruno to the Ecclesiastical Court after the pronouncement of the sentence of death for heresy, 8th February 1600.

10 10 Brunos Conviction The conviction hinged on two points He refused to believe that Communion bread was literally transformed into the body of ChristHe refused to believe that Communion bread was literally transformed into the body of Christ He refused to recant as heretical the eight propositions distilled from his writings by the Inquisitor Cardinal Robert Ballarmine.He refused to recant as heretical the eight propositions distilled from his writings by the Inquisitor Cardinal Robert Ballarmine.

11 11 In his last defenses, Bruno declared that the inquisitors had no right to dictate what was heresy and what was not. This denial of their authority sealed his fate: You replied that if the Holy See and the Holiness of Our Lord had declared the eight propositions as definitively heretical, or that His Holiness knew them to be such, or that they had been so defined by the Holy Spirit, then you were disposed to revoke them. Brunos Undoing

12 12 Giordano Bruno At dawn on February 17 th 1600, naked and disgraced, Bruno was mounted on a donkey and taken from the prison of Tor di Nona to the Campo de Fiori for execution by being burnt at the stake.

13 13 Brunos Aftermath On June 9, 1889, a statue of Bruno was unveiled at the site in the Campo de' Fiori in Rome where he had been burnt at the stake. On June 29, 1930, Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, Brunos inquisitor, was canonized by Pope Pius XI.

14 14 Brunos Aftermath Then there is the lack of discernment by many Christians in situations where basic human rights were violated. The request for forgiveness applies to whatever should have been done or was passed over in silence because of weakness or bad judgement John Paul II, General Audience Discourse, September 1, 1999

15 15 Brunos Aftermath Bruno was convicted because he refused to allow the Church to deny him the right of free speech, which is a basic human right. But John Paul II refused to apologise for the Churchs treatment of Bruno, 400 years after his death. Bellarmine was a Saint, and so his judgement could not be in error.

16 16 THE HISTORICAL ROOTS OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM THE HISTORICAL ROOTS OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM VON HUMBOLDT: The modern research university VON HUMBOLDT: The modern research university THE NEED FOR A WORKING DEFINITION THE NEED FOR A WORKING DEFINITION THE NEED FOR ADEQUATE PROTECTION THE NEED FOR ADEQUATE PROTECTION ACADEMIC FREEDOM IS IMPORTANT: to staff, students, universities and the world at large. ACADEMIC FREEDOM IS IMPORTANT: to staff, students, universities and the world at large. Academic Freedom: Why do we need a Magna Charta?

17 17 Wilhelm Von Humboldt Wilhelm von Humboldt was appointed to the Prussian civil service in 1802, with the job of reforming the educational system in the wake of Prussias defeat by Napoleon. Humboldt founded Berlin University on new principles which focused on the unity of both teaching and research, and the idea that students and staff were partners in a joint enterprise to create knowledge. There were four principles in the Humboldtian university.

18 18 Wilhelm Von Humboldt Lehrfreiheit: Professors were free to do research and report their findings in lectures or publications. This freedom was not universal but the prerogative of the academic profession, and the essential condition of all universities. Academic freedom was not just the right of professors to speak without fear or favor, but the atmosphere of consent surrounding the whole process of research and instruction. Professors were salaried civil servants, who discharged their duties outside the chain of command that encompassed other government officials. They could determine the content of their lectures and publish their research findings without either seeking prior approval or criticism by the state or the church

19 19 Wilhelm Von Humboldt Lernfreiheit: learning freedom for students who had control of their choice of courses of study save that which they needed to prepare them for state professional examinations or to qualify them for an academic teaching license. Students were free to find their own lodgings and diversions, liberated from course grades and classroom roll calls, free to move from place to place sampling academic wares, as mature and self-reliant scholars.

20 20 Wilhelm Von Humboldt Freiheit der Wissenschaft: the right of academic self-governance and institutional autonomy. Universities could make their own decisions on internal matters under the direction of the senior faculty. This right was deemed necessary to protect the freedoms of teaching and research, as without such protection, the university, it was thought, would be dangerously vulnerable to government or religious censorship. Without broad institutional powers, the academy, it was feared, would be at the mercy of the state or church. Hence institutional autonomy was indispensable to academic freedom

21 21 Wilhelm Von Humboldt Einheit von Lehre und Forschung: unity of teaching and research, and the collaborative pursuit of these by staff and students. Von Humboldt thought that the universitys task was the cultivation of science and scholarship in the deepest and broadest sense, in which Collaboration operates through a process in which the successful intellectual achievements of one person arouse the intellectual passions and enthusiasms of others. Hence the goals of science and scholarship are worked towards most effectively through the synthesis of the teacher's and the students' dispositions University teaching aided both lecturer and student as true knowledge emerged in the interplay between experience and enthusiasm

22 22 Wilhelm Von Humboldt The Humboldtian university model, with its emphasis on academic freedom, was taken up by most state university systems in Europe and the United States – in 1876, the Johns Hopkins University was founded as the first American institution offering graduate education on the German model. Of the fifty-three Hopkins faculty members when the university was first established, nearly all had studied at German universities. They adopted the German method of instruction, relying on lectures, seminars, and laboratories. Johns Hopkins became the model for the modern American research university.

23 23 THE HISTORICAL ROOTS OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM THE HISTORICAL ROOTS OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM VON HUMBOLDT: The modern research university VON HUMBOLDT: The modern research university THE NEED FOR A WORKING DEFINITION THE NEED FOR A WORKING DEFINITION THE NEED FOR ADEQUATE PROTECTION THE NEED FOR ADEQUATE PROTECTION ACADEMIC FREEDOM IS IMPORTANT: to staff, students, universities and the world at large. ACADEMIC FREEDOM IS IMPORTANT: to staff, students, universities and the world at large. Academic Freedom: Why do we need a Magna Charta?

24 24 What is Academic Freedom? Academic freedom is often mentioned in supra-national agreements and the constitutions of nation states. Council of Europe (2006) Recommendation on Academic Freedom and University Autonomy: Higher education institutions should enjoy full academic autonomy and freedom EU (2000) Charter on Fundamental Rights: The arts and scientific research shall be free of constraint. Academic freedom shall be respected

25 25 What is Academic Freedom? Spanish Constitution 1978 Article 20 The following rights are recognized and protected: a) To express and disseminate thoughts freely through words, writing, or any other means of reproduction; b) Literary, artistic, scientific, and technical production, and creation; c) Academic freedom. Greek Constitution: Article 16: Art and science, research, and teaching are free... Academic freedom and the freedom to teach do not override the duty to obey the Constitution.

26 26 What is Academic Freedom? However, although such documents suggest that academic freedom is important, and needs protection – they do not specify what the concept of academic freedom actually encompasses. Surprisingly, academics have been unable (or unwilling!) to define a concept which is supposedly of singular importance to their teaching and research, but they may have a vested interest in resisting definitional clarity.

27 27 Problems of Definition Tierney: academic freedom, like democracy, is ageless; it transcends time and is passed down from one generation to the next. Horwitz: academic freedom is not a stable or uniform concept. It is a constantly shifting and deeply contested idea, grounded on very different views of what universities are meant to achieve and how they should operate Fuchs: academic freedom rests on a variety of cultural and institutional factors; (and) changes from time to time and from place to place

28 28 Problems of Definition Schmitt: politicians have become very wary of being labelled enemies of freedom for attacking academics... The confusions surrounding the concept of academic freedom... have been extremely helpful in this campaign Rabban: several professors of medicine asserted that universities had violated their academic freedom by limiting their clinical income to 100,000 dollars

29 29 Problems of Definition Academic freedom is a freedom, that is a liberty marked by the absence of restraints or threats against its exercise, rather than a right, that is an enforceable claim upon the assets of others. Consequently, academic freedom is most often defined by a violation or an abridgment of a particular right. In other words, academic freedom is often defined by its denial.

30 30 Problems of Definition American Association of University Professors: Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results.Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results. Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject.

31 31 Problems of Definition Academic freedom is not the freedom to speak or teach just as one wishes. It is the freedom to pursue the scholarly profession, inside and outside the classroom, according to the norms and standards of that profession. Finkin, M., and Post, R., (2009) For the Common Good: Principles of American Academic Freedom, New Have: Yale University Press, p.149

32 32 Problems of Definition Two other elements: the two principal institutional bulwarks for academic freedom Tenure: security of employment after a successful probationary period. Self Governance: the ability to appoint staff to managerial positions via democratic selection, and to affect institutional policy.

33 33 THE HISTORICAL ROOTS OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM THE HISTORICAL ROOTS OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM VON HUMBOLDT: The modern research university VON HUMBOLDT: The modern research university THE NEED FOR A WORKING DEFINITION THE NEED FOR A WORKING DEFINITION THE NEED FOR ADEQUATE PROTECTION THE NEED FOR ADEQUATE PROTECTION ACADEMIC FREEDOM IS IMPORTANT: to staff, students, universities and the world at large. ACADEMIC FREEDOM IS IMPORTANT: to staff, students, universities and the world at large. Academic Freedom: Why do we need a Magna Charta?

34 34 Academic Freedom in the EU In November 1997, 182 member nations of UNESCO (including the 27 EU member states) signed the UNESCO Recommendation on the Status of Higher Education Personnel which stated that: the right to education, teaching and research can only be fully enjoyed in an atmosphere of academic freedom... the open communication of findings, hypotheses and opinions lies at the very heart of higher education and provides the strongest guarantee of the accuracy and objectivity of scholarship and research.

35 35 Academic Freedom in the EU The Recommendation provides detailed protection for academic freedom in four critical areas. Institutional Autonomy - self-governance necessary for effective decision making by institutions of higher education Individual freedoms - freedom of teaching and discussion, freedom in carrying out research Self governance - the right to elect a majority of representatives to academic bodies Tenure - Tenure should be safeguarded as far as possible

36 36 Academic Freedom in the EU To test compliance with the 1997 UNESCO Recommendation, information was gathered from the 27 EU member states on, institutional autonomy, academic freedom, institutional governance, and academic tenure. Problems with the data, and also with the UNESCO definition, meant that assessing compliance was problematic. Consequently on the basis of the relevant legislation, each nation was adjudged to be in compliance, qualified compliance, or non- compliance with the UNESCO Recommendation.

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38 38 AustriaComplianceLatviaCompliance BelgiumComplianceLithuaniaCompliance BulgariaComplianceLuxembourgCompliance Cyprus Non Compliance MaltaCompliance Czech Republic ComplianceNetherlandsCompliance Denmark Non Compliance PolandCompliance EstoniaCompliancePortugalCompliance FinlandComplianceRomaniaCompliance FranceComplianceSlovakiaCompliance GermanyComplianceSloveniaCompliance GreeceComplianceSpainCompliance HungaryComplianceSwedenCompliance IrelandComplianceU.K.Compliance ItalyCompliance Are the universities autonomous?

39 39 AustriaComplianceLatviaCompliance Belgium Qualified Compliance LithuaniaCompliance BulgariaComplianceLuxembourg Cyprus Malta Non Compliance Czech Republic ComplianceNetherlands Qualified Compliance Denmark PolandCompliance Estonia Portugal FinlandComplianceRomania FranceComplianceSlovakiaCompliance Germany SloveniaCompliance GreeceComplianceSpainCompliance HungaryComplianceSweden IrelandComplianceU.K. Non Compliance ItalyCompliance Is academic freedom protected in law?

40 40 Do academic staff have self governance? Austria Qualified Compliance LatviaCompliance Belgium LithuaniaCompliance BulgariaComplianceLuxembourg Cyprus Non Compliance Malta Qualified Compliance Czech Republic ComplianceNetherlands Non Compliance Denmark PolandCompliance EstoniaCompliancePortugalCompliance FinlandComplianceRomaniaCompliance France SlovakiaCompliance Germany Qualified Compliance SloveniaCompliance GreeceComplianceSpainCompliance HungaryComplianceSweden Non Compliance Ireland Qualified Compliance U.K. Non Compliance ItalyCompliance

41 41 Does academic tenure exist? Austria Qualified Compliance Latvia BelgiumComplianceLithuania BulgariaComplianceLuxembourg CyprusComplianceMalta Non Compliance Czech Republic ComplianceNetherlands Qualified Compliance Denmark PolandCompliance Estonia PortugalCompliance FinlandComplianceRomaniaCompliance France Slovakia Germany SloveniaCompliance GreeceComplianceSpainCompliance HungaryComplianceSwedenCompliance IrelandComplianceU.K. Non Compliance Italy Qualified Compliance

42 42 Nation Legal Autonomy Academic freedom protected in law Academic staff have self governance Academic tenure exists BulgariaComplianceComplianceComplianceCompliance Czech Republic ComplianceComplianceComplianceCompliance FinlandComplianceComplianceComplianceCompliance HungaryComplianceComplianceComplianceCompliance PolandComplianceComplianceComplianceCompliance SloveniaComplianceComplianceComplianceCompliance SpainComplianceComplianceComplianceCompliance GreeceCompliance Qualified Compliance ComplianceCompliance IrelandComplianceCompliance Compliance ItalyComplianceComplianceCompliance LatviaComplianceComplianceCompliance LithuaniaComplianceComplianceCompliance PortugalCompliance ComplianceCompliance RomaniaCompliance ComplianceCompliance Summary Table: High Compliance

43 43 Nation Legal Autonomy Academic freedom protected in law Academic staff have self governance Academic tenure exists Slovakia ComplianceComplianceCompliance Qualified Compliance Austria ComplianceCompliance Belgium Compliance Compliance Estonia Compliance Compliance Germany Compliance Luxembourg Compliance France ComplianceCompliance Non Compliance Qualified Compliance Sweden Compliance Non Compliance Compliance Netherlands Compliance Qualified Compliance Non Compliance Qualified Compliance Cyprus Non Compliance Qualified Compliance Non Compliance Compliance Malta Compliance Qualified Compliance Non Compliance Denmark Qualified Compliance Non Compliance Qualified Compliance U.K. Compliance Non Compliance Summary Table: Low Compliance

44 44 Academic Freedom in the EU The summary table shows that only about one third of EU states are fully compliant with all aspects of the UNESCO Recommendation, but that in the majority of states there is either complete or qualified compliance with the majority of the elements of the UNESCO Recommendation. This minority of fully compliant states includes those which have been under totalitarian control recently (e.g. Hungary, Poland, etc.) These nations have recently re-written their constitutions and their higher education legislation, hence their experiences of undemocratic rule may have led them to better appreciate the benefits of academic freedom.

45 45 THE HISTORICAL ROOTS OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM THE HISTORICAL ROOTS OF ACADEMIC FREEDOM VON HUMBOLDT: The modern research university VON HUMBOLDT: The modern research university THE NEED FOR A WORKING DEFINITION THE NEED FOR A WORKING DEFINITION THE NEED FOR ADEQUATE PROTECTION THE NEED FOR ADEQUATE PROTECTION ACADEMIC FREEDOM IS IMPORTANT: to staff, students, universities and the world at large. ACADEMIC FREEDOM IS IMPORTANT: to staff, students, universities and the world at large. Academic Freedom: Why do we need a Magna Charta?

46 46 Why is academic freedom important? To Academics: The essentiality of freedom in the community of American universities is almost self- evident. … Scholarship cannot flourish in an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die. U.S. Supreme Court (1957) Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S Without academic freedom research, major scientific discoveries, which have irrevocably altered society, would not have occurred – Russells Principia Mathematica, the discovery of DNA.

47 47 Why is academic freedom important? The location of new knowledge, by definition, is unknown. Hence to try to manage the process of the discovery of such knowledge is as easy as trying to manage the weather – which similarly is unknown and unpredictable. We may be able to forecast the weather – but we can not control it. Within an economy based on knowledge, universities have a unique and important role – but to maximise the possibility of new knowledge emerging, to serve the knowledge economy, requires more, not less, academic freedom. Moreover trying to manage the process of knowledge discovery merely slows it down, rather than speeding it up.

48 48 Why is academic freedom important? To Students: universities began as voluntary and spontaneous assemblages or concourses for students to speak and to write and to learn.... The quality and creative power of student intellectual life to this day remain a vital measure of a schools influence and attainment. For the University, by regulation, to cast disapproval on particular viewpoints of its students risks the suppression of free speech and creative inquiry in one of the vital centers for the nations intellectual life, its college and university campuses US Supreme Court, (1995) Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia, 515 U.S. 819.

49 49 Why is academic freedom important? To Universities: This spirit of academic freedom within the university has a value which goes beyond protecting the individual's broad scope of thought and inquiry.... If a university is alive and productive, it is a place where colleagues are in constant dispute; defending their latest intellectual enthusiasm, attacking the contrary views of others.... It is vital that this contest be uninhibited by fear of reprisal. Kingman Brewster, President of Yale for over a decade (and later Master of University College, Oxford)

50 50 Why is academic freedom important? To Society: Academic freedom is considered vital to the proper functioning of a University and, is recognised by international bodies like UNESCO as a barometer of other fundamental human rights, such as freedom of speech. In the past struggles for freedom of speech, university academics were often prominent, not least because their specialist knowledge enabled them to mount valid attacks on dictatorial governments, monarchies and the church. In addition to being important to universities and their academics, academic freedom is an indicative facet of freedom within the larger society, such that malaise in academe is related to, and symptomatic of, that in the body politic as a whole.

51 51 Some final words by Giordano Bruno Declaration about the scholars of England, particularly those of Oxford: A constellation of the most pedantic, obstinate ignorance and presumption, mixed with a kind of rustic incivility, which would try the patience of Job. (1584) La Cena de le Ceneri (The Ash Wednesday Supper)

52 52 Recent Publications Karran, T., (2007) Academic Freedom in Europe: A Preliminary Comparative Analysis, Higher Education Policy, 34(2): Karran, T., (2009) Academic Freedom: In Justification of a Universal Ideal, Studies in Higher Education, 34(3): Karran, T., (2009) Academic Freedom in Europe: Reviewing UNESCOs Recommendation, British Journal of Educational Studies, 57(2): Karran, T., (2009) Academic Freedom in Europe: Time for a Magna Charta?, Higher Education Policy, 22(2):

53 53 Thank you for listening! If you would like a copy of this presentation, or copies of the articles on academic freedom, then please contact me by


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