Freedom of speech threatened at British universities

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(Photo: Unsplash / Oxford University)

Academic freedom at UK universities is threatened by the growing tendency of academics to self-censor, a new Policy Exchange report warned.

The study, which is based on the largest survey of UK-based academics in recent years, found that left-wing academics are more than right-wing, the latter having a "structurally discriminatory effect".

While most academics "little support" "layoff campaigns" against colleagues, the minority who would support such a campaign can "have an overwhelming effect on the academic climate and restrict freedom."

"There is also broad support for political discrimination in publication, recruitment and promotion. This jeopardizes academic freedom and is likely to lead to self-censorship," the report said.

Only 54% of academics said they would feel comfortable at lunch next to a well-known leave supporter, while only 37% said they sat next to someone who advocated "gender-critical feminist views" on transgender rights.

"It is likely that academics will discriminate neither more than other professions, nor more left than right," the report said.

"However, the evidence is that due to the small number of academics who identify as right, there is a structural discriminatory effect on them.

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"Hostile or just uncomfortable attitudes signal those who face such discrimination that they should hide their views and narrow their research questions to comply with applicable standards if they want to make progress and enjoy a positive workplace experience.

"It is important that this shows that the & # 39; deterrent effect & # 39; in which dissenting opinions are not publicly expressed is not just out of fear of discomfort. It is rather a rational response – especially for younger academics a place where something expresses itself. Such views can have a negative impact on your career. "

Almost a third (32%) of all right-wing academics said they had no views in teaching and research, compared with 15% of those in the middle and on the left.

Half of the right-wing academics in the social sciences and humanities admitted to censoring themselves out of "fear of consequences for their careers".

Trevor Phillips, former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, commented on the results in The Times, saying that British universities are "run by a majority who believe they know everything and don't need to learn".

"Our university authorities have shown the backbone of a ruling elite in decline by being bullied and silent by their own students, while some of their faculties raged on social media and denounced people (like me) as racists (yes, you, Cambridge University) )) or raccoon (I'm looking at you, Birmingham City University), "he said.

"What is most discouraging is the widespread fiction that there is an old guard on one side that has allowed women and minorities to be bullied and abused, and on the other side a brave new movement dedicated to eliminating oppression .

"The truth is exactly the opposite.

"The fanatics who want to allow men to enter safe spaces for women create an atmosphere of fear and exclusion for our sisters and daughters."

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