Right-wing academics feel the need to ‘self-censor’ political beliefs on campus

Three in four right-wing academics say they have to hide their political views on campus, according to a new report that warns of a higher education ‘monoculture’ in which many teachers ‘openly dislike’ those who are not on the left.

A study by the Legatum Institute, a center-right think tank, found that 75% of right-wing academics sometimes felt the need to “self-censor” their political beliefs on campus, compared to 35% of left-wing academics. academics.

At the same time, most academics said they disliked people who vote for right-wing parties in elections, according to the report.

Some 70% of those who identified as left-wing said they disliked right-wing voters, compared with 36% of right-wing academics who disliked left-wing voters.

The study, which will fuel fears about free speech and tolerance of dissenting views in universities, is based on a survey of 650 academics – nearly half of whom were professors – at the Kingdom’s top 12 universities. United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the United States. .

In the UK, 35% of academics said they felt the need to hide or self-censor beliefs on campus, compared to 50% in the US, 44% in Canada and 39% in Australia.

Academic Freedom Concerns

Matthew Goodwin, Professor of Politics at the University of Kent and Fellow of the Legatum Institute, who conducted the study, said: “Academic freedom has long been at the heart of prosperity in the UK and around the world. Yet our results suggest that there are good reasons to be concerned about the extent to which it is preserved and promoted by our universities.

“We find that social science scholars lean heavily in a single ideological direction while a remarkably high number of them hide their true opinions while on campus, fearing what will happen if they are revealed. This should not happen in a mature liberal democracy.

“The good news is that many academics say they are committed to academic freedom. But we also find a sizeable minority who clearly see ideological goals as more important than the fundamental principle of academic freedom.”

Sir John Hayes, who chairs the Common Sense Group of Conservative backbenchers, suggested the results demonstrated why the Government’s proposals to protect free speech on campus needed to be further strengthened.

He said, “Self-censorship is a huge problem in universities. We must strengthen the provisions of the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, including in terms of penalties for universities that fail to meet their legal obligations, and ensure that they have a duty not only to protect freedom of expression, but also to promote it.”

In the report, Professor Goodwin warns that, “worryingly, we … find a significant minority of ‘militant academics’ who prioritize ideological goals over academic freedom”.

“Soft Totalitarianism”

The survey found that 16% of academics disagree that limits on free speech undermine the fundamental principles on which universities are founded – a group which, according to Professor Goodwin, “represents a threatens academic freedom and reflects the “soft totalitarianism” that has been identified in other research.

More than three in four academics (76%) disagreed with the suggestion that some people should be barred from speaking to a student audience if their opinions might offend.

Professor Goodwin called the finding “positive” as it indicated “widespread support for exposing students to a wide range of perspectives, opinions and beliefs”.

But one in 10 respondents said speakers who might offend students should be barred from speaking on campus, while 14% did not take a position one way or the other.

According to the report, academics who “lean to the left are statistically more likely than their right-wing counterparts to want to block speakers who might offend students.”

While 55% of right-wing academics strongly disagreed with the suggestion that some people should be barred from speaking to a student audience if their opinions are likely to offend students, that figure fell to 32% among academics in left.

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