Academic Freedom Statement

Academic Freedom Statement

Academic Senate Statement on Academic Freedom

Academic Senate is responsible for advising University Council and the Vice-Chancellor on ‘measures to safeguard the academic freedom of the University’.1

The Definition of Academic Freedom

Academic freedom is the principle that staff and students should be free to conduct research, undertake learning and teaching, communicate, and publish, subject to the standards of scholarship without unreasonable interference and restriction.

The Importance of Academic Freedom

Academic freedom has both intrinsic and practical value. The value of a university as a public institution depends upon its ability and its determination to create new knowledge and understanding, to challenge accepted ideas, test novel hypotheses, and encourage rigorous academic debate.

Academic freedom, therefore, is fundamental to the values that Macquarie University upholds and strives to cultivate in the wider society. Macquarie University stands for, promotes, and defends the right of all people to have access to knowledge, education and open debate. Therefore, Macquarie University’s commitment to academic freedom benefits society both directly and indirectly, through the creation, preservation, and transmission of ideas, and the advancement of knowledge and understanding, irrespective of immediate application.

The Practice of Academic Freedom at Macquarie University

Academic freedom confers rights that are limited by responsibilities on individuals, governance bodies, and constituencies within Macquarie University.

Macquarie University Staff and Students have rights to:

  • Engage in critical enquiry and scholarly endeavour in the performance of their duties, without fear of intimidation, in an environment of tolerance for and engagement with divergent opinions, unconstrained by institutional censorship.
  • Engage in public discourse, expressing their informed views within the limits of their professional competence and professional standards. In doing so they may identify themselves as members of, but not spokespersons for, the University. This freedom of expression extends to making statements on political matters, including policies affecting higher education, and to criticism of the University and its actions.

Macquarie University Staff are also free to participate in professional or representative academic bodies.

Macquarie University Staff and Students have responsibilities to:

  • Uphold a commitment to academic standards, including academic integrity, rigour in the construction of arguments, and the appropriate use of evidence.
  • Exercise academic freedom within the parameters of legislative and internal policy requirements, and their obligations within the organisational context of the university.
  • Foster intellectually vigorous and open discussion in all forums, adhering to the standards of scholarship, and avoid actions that may inhibit freedom of inquiry and expression.
  • Undertake discourse reasonably and in good faith, with declarations of conflicts of interest where appropriate. When speaking in public, staff and students should consider whether it is appropriate to link their comments to their role and relationship with the University.

Macquarie University has rights to:

  • Assert institutional autonomy, and in particular the right to determine for itself, on academic grounds, its research and teaching practices and priorities.
  • Support its staff and students in advancing knowledge, ideas, theories, and technology, and in serving society at large.

Macquarie University has institutional responsibilities to:

  • Protect its staff and students from improper pressures, whether political, cultural, economic, or ideological, from restricting their academic freedom and seek wherever possible to minimise that impact.
  • Place academic freedom principles at the forefront in conceiving and implementing its administrative and governance policies and processes.
  • Contribute positively to an environment of freedom of inquiry, discourse, teaching, research, and publication for all of its staff and students.
  • Not disadvantage or subject its staff and students to less favourable treatment for exercising their right to academic freedom, including no threats to the security of employment for its staff, regardless of the nature of that employment.

1 Academic Senate Rules, Clause 10(1)(b)

Endorsed by Academic Senate 26 July 2016 and amended by Academic Senate on 21 July 2020

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