Browsing E Theses by Subjects
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Academic freedom in English universities: an exploration of the views of Vice-Chancellors‘Academic freedom’ in the Twenty-First Century is a contested concept and there exist many interpretations, or versions, of academic freedom, a number of which have been identified through a review of the literature. Some scholars now claim that academic freedom no longer exists in academia, or that it has become a second order value that competes with other priorities more appropriate to the now competitive business of higher education. In this context, the philosophical and legal responsibilities that Vice-Chancellors have in protecting academic freedom can no longer be taken as unproblematic, and their views may not be clear to themselves or to the staff and students in their institutions. This thesis explores the views Vice-Chancellors have on the concept of academic freedom, how they manage academic freedom and the extent to which they believe academic freedom is practised in their university. The Vice-Chancellors interviewed, of a regional and representative sample of English universities, included those from leading pre-1992 universities and new post-1992 universities as well as one private university. Vice-Chancellors were found to have paid little, or no, attention to academic freedom. They implied that academic freedom was a matter for individual subject departments, but they were resolute that they were the arbiters whenever academic freedom became an issue. Some thought that the concept of academic freedom had been misused by individual academics who raised issues motivated by political and ideological beliefs, and those who conflated it with the civil liberty of free speech. In summarising the Vice-Chancellors’ ‘version’ of academic freedom, a key finding was that they had neglected academic freedom. Consequently, one important proposal was that Vice-Chancellors in English universities should review the nature of academic freedom and consider the implications at governance and managerial levels, at departmental level and in practice. As one Vice-Chancellor admitted: “…we’ve never said to, or proven to, the outside world that academic freedom is important”.