The Government of Academic Freedom: Clarity and Discipline

We were delighted to be able to welcome Thomas Docherty, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Warwick and author of Universities at War, as our guest speaker at our General Meeting last week. In a highly interesting and engaging talk, Professor Docherty highlighted the conflict between management’s pursuit of “clarity” and the very notion of academic freedom. For those of you who were unable to attend last week’s event, Professor Docherty kindly agreed to a recording of his talk.

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Abstract: There is a conflict between the principles of academic freedom and the structure and process of governance in our managed University sector. Academic freedom depends upon dissidence in various ways with respect to faculty disciplines; management prefers the supposed clarity of smooth operational functions. In recent times, this conflict has become more apparent, and it has centred on issues of discipline. The result is that the very idea of academic freedom and its relation to intellectual discipline is under threat; and that threat is increasingly open, brazen, and full of clarity. What is clear, however, is the new meaning of discipline.