Main content

Academic Freedom

Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk. With Andrew Doyle, Anne McElvoy, Tim Stanley and Nazir Afzal. #moralmaze

It seems to some that universities, which used to boast that their courses would explore controversial ideas, are nowadays keener to reassure students that they will not be disturbed by anything too worrying. But safe spaces for students make dangerous spaces for dons. Doctors and professors have been subjected to harassment and no-platforming because of their unfashionable opinions on a range of topics including colonialism, transgender rights and abortion. Earlier this year Noah Carl lost his research fellowship at Cambridge (where he was looking into the links between genetics and intelligence) after hundreds of fellow academics signed an open letter accusing him of “racist pseudoscience”. Now a group of academics is ready to launch ‘The Journal of Controversial Ideas’: peer-reviewed research by authors who can choose to remain anonymous because they fear a backlash that could endanger their careers or even their lives. Opponents of the journal say it will provide a safe space for dangerous and offensive ideas published under the cloak of anonymity. Should there be any constraints on the freedom of academics to make discoveries and interpret them as they choose? How should academic research be treated if it is deemed to support theories that are viewed as unacceptable? Do universities have a moral duty to protect and platform views with which the majority disagrees? Or are universities morally entitled to censure or dismiss academics who flout the norms of decency and respect? Is academic freedom genuinely under threat? Featuring Dr Myriam François, Dr Francesca Minerva, Dr Arianne Shahvisi and Dr Joanna Williams.

Producer Dan Tierney.

Available now

43 minutes

Broadcasts

The Evidence Toolkit

The Evidence Toolkit

Check out the claims made in news stories with this interactive tool.

Podcast