Pages tagged "Academic Freedom"

  • Five points to save academic freedom at Kiwi universities

  • Polling shows majority of Kiwis support university funding being contingent on defending academic freedom


    8 May, 2024

    Polling shows majority of Kiwis support university funding being contingent on defending academic freedom

    Polling commissioned by the Free Speech Union and conducted by Curia Market Research shows that most New Zealanders (53%) support government funding to universities being partially contingent on upholding academic freedom, compared to only 19% who opposed this.

    This result is consistent with polling from last year, which showed 75% of Kiwis believe free speech is a 'defining cultural value', but a majority also believed that value is under threat, says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.

    "The Government's policy to withdraw funding from universities that fail in their core duties to defend the rights of academics to academic freedom is not only necessary to restore free speech in New Zealand; it's a policy a majority of Kiwis support.

    "Fewer than one in five Kiwis opposed the question, 'Do you think government funding should be partially contingent on how well a university does in upholding academic freedom?'

    "Academic freedom in New Zealand is under serious threat. The simple saga of Victoria University trying to host a panel discussion on free speech is just one example of many that illustrate this point.

    "There are those within the university who are ideologically opposed to the basic freedoms that have led to the very function and flourishing of the university. If free speech and academic freedom are not maintained in universities, what is the point of the university? It's indoctrination, not education.

    "The Free Speech Union's recently launched profession-specific membership for academics is just one response we are leading to restore academic freedom in Kiwi universities, and free speech for the tens of thousands of young New Zealanders who pursue tertiary education to learn how to think, not be told what to think."

  • Universities, you're on notice.

    It's graduation week for several universities around the country, and many of the graduates will already have a few months of work under their belts.

    It's worth considering the ripple effect our academics have as they send graduates out into the world to many workplaces to apply what they've learnt.

    Here at the Free Speech Union, we've documented a consistent decline in academic freedom over the past couple of years. I know this is an issue you care about, but many other Kiwis are just starting to realise what's at stake, thanks to the coverage on Victoria University postponing the panel discussion on free speech

    Academics often tell us they self-censor for fear of saying something out of line. After all, it's pretty hard to speak up if it'll put your income on the line. 

    But consider the effect of academics self-censoring. It doesn't just stop with them. What does this do for our students, and therefore the workforce, and our nation at large? 

    Introducing our membership specifically for academics

    Last week we said we were stepping up and taking the fight to the university. We're tired of academics not being able to freely voice their opinions and perspectives.

    That's why we've launched our first of eight new, industry-specific memberships. It's especially for academics and university staff. 

    With a council chaired by Prof. Paul Moon and Prof. Elizabeth Rata, the new membership will be a community of academics committed to academic freedom being defended, upheld and celebrated.

    We have a proven track record of defending those silenced simply for voicing their opinions. We want to ensure academics know they can rely on us, and that they don't need to live in fear. We'll go into bat for them

    Learn more about our new membership for academics and university staff

    Keep an eye out over the next couple of months, as we launch a total of eight professional-memberships. We haven't said this publicly yet, but as a supporter, we wanted to let you know. We're taking the fight to those who are silencing Kiwis in their workplaces: teachers, lawyers, doctors, public servants- they all should be free to speak. 

    The stakes are high if we don't get this right

    Last week we announced that we are the proud named sponsors of the New Zealand Schools Debating Council. What better way to champion free speech than to get the next generation exercising it?

    But this week, we heard that half of the executive team resigned in protest. Why? Because the other half has threatened to cut ties with us.

    If their reason is anything like that of the six debating teams from the University of Auckland who pulled out of the AUT Mooting Society's moot we sponsored, it'll be because they need to be seen as 'politically neutral'.

    And apparently, standing for everyone's right to have their say, regardless of the subject matter, isn't politically neutral anymore. 

    In other news, the AUT Mooting Society's moot went ahead. We had a great evening on Monday as the finalists battled it out at Meredith Connell in their mock court. 

    Join us next week on our tour with Jonathan Rauch

    Our tour with Jonathan Rauch really couldn't come at a better time. This weekend, Rauch arrives to New Zealand all the way from Washington DC. Rauch is an authority on the crucial importance of academic freedom. He’ll unpack why free speech matters so much to the university, and what we need to do to save it.

    We have a jam-packed schedule with around 30 appointments over five days, including two public events, conversations at universities especially for academics, meetings with vice-chancellors, and media interviews. 

    Have you RSVP'd yet to our public event in Auckland or Christchurch yet? If you can't make it along to an event, keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter for all the updates and media coverage. 

    If you're an academic, get in touch with [email protected] to find out more about our academic conversations. 


    If universities are to go back to being the critic and conscience of society, we can't sit back and let academic freedom plummet further. We're doing something about it. You can chip in here

    Nadia Braddon-Parsons
    Communications & Marketing Manager
    Free Speech Union

    PS. Our new membership especially for academics is here. Let's see academic freedom thrive. Not an academic? You can can still join us here, or contribute to the cause. Speaking of academic freedom, are you coming along to one of our public events with Jonathan Rauch next week?


  • Free Speech Union launches professional membership for academics to fight ‘culture of fear’ in universities



    EMBARGOED UNTIL: Midday, 8 May 2024
    Please note: The new membership and website will be launched at midday. 

    Free Speech Union launches professional membership for academics to fight ‘culture of fear’ in universities

    The Free Speech Union has launched a professional membership category especially for academics to ensure their speech rights are defended, upheld, and celebrated, says Jonathan Ayling Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union. 

    “Over the past week, the public has become more aware of how academic freedom is under threat in New Zealand’s education sector in light of Victoria University’s problems scheduling a discussion on free speech. 

    “The Free Speech Union has engaged this problem over several years. Research we produced in both 2022 and 2023 reveals that as many as 50% of academics who responded to our survey at some universities do not feel free to raise differing perspectives on key issues.  

    “Our academic leaders and education professional bodies have statutory duties to protect academics’ basic freedoms but have failed us every time they’ve threatened or disciplined someone from speaking. Not only has this affected the individuals silenced, it’s told the rest of the industry to keep their mouths shut. 

    “There’s now an entrenched ‘culture of fear’ which many academics refer to. It takes immense courage to challenge the status quo if you know it puts your income and reputation on the line. It’s time academics and teachers weren’t afraid to share their opinions.

    “Prof. Paul Moon from Auckland University of Technology and Prof. Elizabeth Rata from the University of Auckland will chair the Inter-University Council on Academic Freedom. This Council will work to provide members with protection and a community of others also striving for academic freedom and free speech in our universities. 

    “This is the first of eight professional, industry-specific memberships we’re launching across the next eight months. We want to see Kiwis able to freely express themselves without retribution, no matter their context.” 

    The academic membership can be found at



  • Prominent American journalist and author to tour New Zealand universities with Free Speech Union


    11 April 2024

    Prominent American journalist and author to tour New Zealand universities with Free Speech Union

    Prominent American journalist and author Jonathan Rauch will visit New Zealand with the Free Speech Union next month to discuss the importance of academic freedom, says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union. 

    “Rauch is a senior fellow in the Governance Studies program at the Brookings Institute, the author of eight books and many articles on LGBT rights, public policy, culture, and government. 

    “We’re pleased to bring Rauch to New Zealand for a week from May 12 to specifically engage on the issue of academic freedom. He will speak on university campuses across New Zealand, meet with vice-chancellors, and give the keynote address at a university symposium co-hosted with the New Zealand Initiative in Wellington. 

    “Especially relevant to the tour are Rauch’s books The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth and Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, which defend free speech, science, and robust criticism. 

    “We’ve documented a consistent decline in academic freedom and academics’ ability to perform their crucial function in society. Universities should be a place where ideas and theories are freely debated and tested, but we continue to see that this is not the case. 

    “We look forward to Rauch’s visit contributing to this important discussion.” 


  • Free Speech Union Work on Academic freedom in New Zealand Universities

  • Proposals to amend “free speech” at university

  • Free Speech Union welcomes Government’s early steps to defend free speech


    24 November 2023


    Free Speech Union welcomes Government’s early steps to defend free speech   

    Policy objectives announced today by the Incoming-Government will strengthen free speech in New Zealand. The Free Speech Union welcomes these early steps to once again protect free speech as the foundation of our human rights framework, says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.   

    "The commitment to protect freedom of speech by ruling out the introduction of hate speech legislation and stopping the Law Commission’s work on hate speech legislation is a fitting conclusion to our long-running campaign to prevent hate speech law reform.  

    "Criminalising words that some may find offensive has never been the appropriate way to fix the underlying issues at play. Such laws are often used against the very minority communities they seek to protect.  

    "The final burial of these nonsense laws is a big win for free speech.  

    "Universities and academics have long held the position as society’s critic and conscience. They must be free to debate controversial issues, even if some find the ideas being debated viscerally unpleasant or even 'harmful'.

    "We welcome the proposed amendment to the Education and Training Act such that tertiary education providers receiving taxpayer funding must commit to a free speech policy in order to maintain this status.  

    "Throwing out the proposed hate speech laws and strengthening free speech in tertiary education are major wins for all Kiwis who care about the basic freedom to speak freely. 

    "We remain committed to our principles of non-partisanship and will remain vocal critics and opponents of any who oppose free speech, especially the Government. Likewise, we look forward to working closely with all who seek to protect and expand free speech in New Zealand." 


  • Research Finds Culture Of Fear Limiting Academic Freedom Across Kiwi Universities

    26 May 2023


    Research Finds Culture Of Fear Limiting Academic Freedom Across Kiwi Universities

    The Free Speech Union, in conjunction with Curia Market Research, has released its second Annual Academic Freedom Report, which considers the views of hundreds of academics from across each of New Zealand's eight universities. "Academic freedom is indispensable if the university is going to perform its role as the 'critic and conscience of society'. Yet, this report outlines considerable concerns for Kiwi academic freedom and the culture of open debate and research in our universities. It deepens concerns that we have raised for some time about the ability for Kiwi academics to voice controversial or unpopular views", says Jonathan Ayling, Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union.

    "A majority of comments from academics reflected concerns about the state of academic freedom, with a clear sense of growing difficulty in raising and discussing a range of issues in the university context. This was seen at all levels of academic discourse, including with colleagues, university management, students, teaching, or speaking in public.

    "Many responses referred to a 'climate of fear' and a large number mentioned concerns about job security of barriers to promotion for expressing the 'wrong' views. Across every metric, responses indicate academics feel less free than they did last year.

    "Concerningly, this report shows that a majority of academics who responded at five of our eight universities disagreed that they were free to state controversial or unpopular opinions, even though this is one of the specific features of academic freedom as defined in the Education and Training Act 2020. Across all eight universities, only 46% of academics agreed they felt free to question received wisdom and state controversial and unpopular opinions. The rest disagreed.

    "When asked about their willingness to speak about the Treaty of Waitangi and colonialism, at least one-third (30%) of academics at every single university said they would feel ‘Not at all comfortable’. Almost half (45%) of academics from Otago were ‘Not at all comfortable’.

    "Freedom in the university sector is stagnating, and its leaders either don’t know or don’t care. We need to pay attention and do something- our future is far more bleak without solutions, as disruptive or unexpected as they may be, that move us forward."

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