Academic Freedom


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Entities Affected (h2)

Institutional autonomy speaks to self-regulation or the right of self-government; self-determination; autonomy with respect to local or internal matters. Academic freedom and institutional autonomy is a constitutional right in South Africa. There is debate whether there is a threat to the constitutionally guaranteed academic freedom in South Africa.

This comes from the background that universities often function as centres of political and intellectual dissent, and regimes are thus reluctant to allow institutions the freedom and autonomy that may contribute to instability. This paper looks at academic freedom and institutional autonomy in South Africa before and after A guard called her out of the room a few minutes later, questioning why she did not use the university computer for her lecture. Anything that might interfere with the ability to surveil is immediately corrected, it seems.

A lecturer on political reform in China, she reports that she had to present the recent change in the Chinese constitution that allowed for unlimited presidential terms as a step forward, despite her own views to the contrary. To do otherwise would be to lose her job, she said. According to her, the instructors in her department believe that they walk on thin ice every day, never knowing whether what they say in class might be used against them. The CCP under Xi has extended some of its repressive practices over media and education to areas outside its direct jurisdiction. The most startling demonstration of this is the abductions of Hong Kong booksellers and their subsequent detentions on the mainland.

One consequence of the proliferating incidents in which the CCP has reached into other states to enforce its ideology is that some media and education professionals—both PRC and non-PRC— who once felt safe to speak their minds outside China now think twice before speaking freely, wherever they are in the world.

How do these restrictions affect the academic freedom of US-based scholars? Scholars of China have long been accustomed to some degree of self-censorship or, put differently, to some level of awareness of potential repercussions for work they do on sensitive subjects. If your career depends on having access to the mainland, then you have always considered whether certain topics might make it difficult to obtain a visa.


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You have always thought about whether you might be inadvertently endangering your Chinese contacts when you published your research. Recent articles and studies suggest, however, that the situation has significantly worsened in the last five years. The problem, however, lies less with academics than with administrators and university officials who either explicitly cater to the CCP for funding and student recruitment reasons or preemptively discourage events and projects out of broad fear of offense or ignorance.

Challenges to academic freedom and institutional autonomy in South African universities

Perhaps most important, respondents reported that they do not count on, or receive, support from their home institutions when navigating work on China. Is it from your departments? From your universities? From something like the AAUP?


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From the US government? Discussants expressed concern about the idea of US government involvement but had no satisfying answer to this question. Half a year later, Human Rights Watch has offered guidelines to help administrators defend academic freedom. Hanban, the Confucius Institute headquarters under the Education Ministry of China, signs contracts with universities outside of China to set up these institutes.

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In addition to the incalculable value of papering over for Western audiences the fact that the Chinese state does not support the principles of academic freedom as most Western institutions do, these partnerships give Confucius Institutes easy access to K—12 educational systems outside of China. Many K—12 schools established Confucius Classrooms with volunteer teachers from Confucius Institutes. At the end of , there were Confucius Institutes and 1, Confucius Classrooms in countries and regions.

According to a report by the US Government Accountability Office, as of January , ninety-six Confucius Institutes operate on US college and university campuses, nearly half of which signed contracts secretly and promised confidentiality. Moreover, Confucius Institute teachers are exceedingly likely to continue to self-censor, regardless of contractual reform, because they know that they will eventually return to China. As of May , at least thirty-four universities and one school board in seven countries had severed ties with Confucius Institutes.

The University of Chicago became the first in the United States to shut down its Confucius Institute after receiving a petition from more than one hundred faculty members in Since then, nineteen more American universities have cut ties with their Confucius Institutes, with nine closures in and seven closures so far in The reasons for these closures have varied. The University of Oregon, San Francisco State University, and Western Kentucky University, for instance, decided to end their partnerships with Confucius Institute because continuing them would have jeopardized funding for language programs from the US Department of Defense.

Why Does It Matter?

The University of Massachusetts Boston did not give a specific reason for the closure of its Confucius Institute, but concerns raised by UMass students, professors, and alumni over issues of academic censorship and self-censorship were considered in the closure decision. As a result, the tuition of international students is increasingly critical to our operations. Before the piece ran but after the Chronicle accepted it, I sent it to the vice provost for international affairs, having casually discussed with him on an earlier occasion the trip that was the topic of the essay.

An hour later, he asked me to meet with him and the provost. They explained their dilemma: the article was running the same week the vice provost expected to sign two high-figure contracts with Chinese organizations to facilitate enrollment of Chinese students at Portland State. One of the contracts was with a governmental agency I mention in the article.


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They felt the publication might jeopardize a delicate process the vice provost had been working on for more than a year. A further exploration of a book burning at Georgia Southern opinion. Recent studies on state disinvestment in public higher education are misleading opinion. Elite college admissions is full of hypocrisy opinion. How to write an effective diversity statement essay.

Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom on Campus: Why It Matters and How It's Being Threatened

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Academic Freedom

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