Academic Freedom Motion for UCU Congress 2017

Academic Freedom

Congress instructs the NEC to bring to Congress in 2018 a statement in defence of Academic Freedom as an addition to UCU Rules Section 2 ‘Aims and Objects’.

In reflecting on the wording of this amendment the NEC will consider the Academics for Academic Freedom (AFAF) principles of Academic Freedom:

(1) that academics, both inside and outside the classroom, have unrestricted liberty to question and test received wisdom and to put forward controversial and unpopular opinions, whether or not these are deemed offensive, and

(2) that academic institutions have no right to curb the exercise of this freedom by members of their staff, or to use it as grounds for disciplinary action or dismissal.

(114 words)

The Rules of the University and College Union are silent on academic freedom – the freedom that defines the academy. In increasingly censorious times lecturers need their union to give the highest priority to academic freedom. The motion above is the first step towards creating a union that defends our freedom. It was passed unanimously by the East Midlands Region of UCU on Saturday 21 January – so it will be debated at congress. But we need more Branches and Regions to put it forward and build support so that congress will adopt the proposal. Canterbury Christ Church University are going to consider it, as is the University of Derby. AFAF asks other UCU Branches and Regions to support this important motion.




Free speech has become an issue of significant controversy. This debate will assess a number of key questions, including:
  • To what extent should freedom of speech be regarded as an absolute value?
  • Is it possible to draw a clear distinction between speech and action?
  • What constitutes hate speech and should it be banned?


  • Melantha Chittenden – National Union of Students LGBT+ officer
  • Claire Fox – Director of the Institute of Ideas, BBC Radio 4 Moral Maze panellist, author of ‘I Find that Offensive!’
  • Professor Mark Hammond – former CEO of the Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Professor James Soderholm – Head of Humanities, Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys

Venue, Date and Time:

Old Sessions House, Canterbury Christ Church University, OG46, Longport, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 1NX Thursday 26 January 2017, 18:00-20:00.

Further details here, or email Jim Butcher

Come and participate in the debate – all welcome!

Supported by: Canterbuy Christ Church Students’ Union / Engaging Sociology / Politics Matters / CCCU UCU

This event is open to the public.

Interesting Fact:

Canterbury Christ Church University was graded Green for freedom of speech in the 2016 Free Speech University Rankings which are sponsored by AFAF.



Book Launch – Academic Freedom Matters


Why Academic Freedom Matters

Why academic freedom mattersA ‘must read’ new book out this September from Civitas with contributions from many AFAF supporters including Jenny Jarvie, Dennis Hayes, Cheryl Hudson (ed.), Tara McCormack, Jason Walsh and Joanna Williams (ed.). Order it now on Amazon only £9.

“Academic freedom in British universities has become a national talking point. Government policies such as the Prevent Duty and the Research Excellence Framework pose a threat to academic freedom, as do students – and increasingly scholars themselves – who want to turn the campus into an intellectual ‘safe space’. (more…)