UNIVERSITIES BILL

 

Sir, In your editorial on the Universities Bill (October 28th), you mention, but do not develop, the principle of academic freedom. You rightly write of the proper, effective and efficient use of public funds. Rightly again, you note that the issue is not accountability but how this is to be achieved.

Still, academic freedom is the core issue and behind the many suggested amendments issuing from various bodies is a pervasive concern for this principle. Academic freedom has two complementary meanings: [1] freedom of the teaching and learning institution from control and interference, in the pursuit of its two objects of teaching and learning, by other institutions such as government, state, church or any other institution that either represents or purports to represent the general public; [2] freedom within the teaching and learning institution to teach and follow research where it leads.

There is no absolute requirement on any government, on any state, on any citizens to want such a teaching and learning institution. But let this be quite clear: the fundamental concern of many who now work, and have worked for many years, in Irish universities is that the proposed Bill issues from a profound distrust of academic freedom and an equally profound desire to make the universities into instruments of current State policy. It is for this reason, not for reasons of detail or because they think that public funds need not be accounted for, that many oppose the Bill. - Yours, etc.,

Department of Philosophy,

University College, Cork.