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Championing academic freedom: a call to unite for the sake of higher education

25 Oct 2023 | Professor Naomi Waltham-Smith In the second of our three-part series on academic freedom, freedom of speech and EDI, Professor Naomi Waltham-Smith, University of Oxford, argues that championing a robust notion of academic freedom is essential to higher education’s civic mission and value

Last week, David Bass, our Director of ED introduced our three-part series thought leadership series: Academic Freedom, Freedom of Speech and Equality Diversity and Inclusion, including the first piece in the series in which Dr Robert Simpson, Associate Professor at UCL, set out in detail how EDI, academic freedom and freedom of speech are fundamentally aligned and complementary. 

Today, we hear from Professor Naomi Waltham-Smith, University of Oxford, on why the UK HE sector should value and defend academic freedom of higher education. Naomi sets out the role of critique as a defining feature of academic work, and therefore of disagreeing well, building knowledge and supporting better democratic and societal discussion.

Read Professor Naomi Waltham-Smith's article here; and watch this video in which she discusses the main points in her article with Advance HE's Director EDI, David Bass.

In the third piece in the series, Prof David Ruebain, PVC Culture, Equity and Inclusion at the University of Sussex, will explore some of the complexities, difficulties and potential solutions at the boundaries of free speech and EDI but sets out why leaders across the sector should have confidence in their equality and inclusion values and initiatives.

This week, Advance HE, shared guidance on Promoting good relations in higher education guidance

In the coming month, Advance HE will be sharing further guidance for institutions to provide technical support to members to meet the aspirations and ideas articulated in this series:

  • Setting institutional policies and positions in relation to EDI and FoS/AF,

  • Understanding protected beliefs.

Advance HE is also hosting an event for those with institutional responsibility for EDI, on ensuring that their EDI activity – and their Equality Charters work in particular – positively aligns with and supports freedom of speech and academic freedom. Members can book your place here.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Conference 6-7 March 2024

The EDI Conference 2024: The future is now: Building EDI practice for the changing world of HE will provide space to rethink and refresh our approaches to equality, diversity and inclusion, share our successes, and contribute to a collective discussion about how we are shaping the future of EDI in higher education across the globe by thinking about what we are doing and need to embed in our practice now. Find out more.

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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