Uni lobby says academic freedom understood

The Innovative Research Universities says legislation definition not needed

Education Minister Dan Tehan proposes to amend the Higher Education Support Act to include a definition of academic freedom, (CMM January 22).

But the IRU does not think this is needed.

“It is a well-known concept with a variety of specific definitions in university policies and enterprise agreements. … A legislated definition would place heavy weight on a specific set of words, not the evolving application of the core concept,” IRU states.

The lobby specifically opposes including a provision specifying; “the freedom of academic staff, without constraint imposed by reason of their employment by the university, to make lawful public comment on any issue in their personal capacities.”

IRU argues this, “conflates and confuses the separation of the two key concepts under discussion: academic freedom and freedom of speech. As such, it has the potential to create some highly undesirable employment disputes, should a member of staff wish to test the meaning of the wording to its limits.”

This is a flare-up in what looked like sector-wide support for the legislation as part of Mr Tehan’s wish that all universities adopt the French model code of free speech on campus. As yet, no other university or lobby has broken cover but word is further critics may appear after this week’s Universities Australia conference.