Academic Freedom

Academic Freedom is the principle which underpins and informs CARA's work defending the right of individuals to explore the world of ideas, literature and science unfettered by political, social or religious oppression, censorship, or sanction.

The importance of Academic Freedom was expressed by Albert Einstein, speaking on behalf of CARA at the Royal Albert Hall in October 1933. He called upon his audience to “defend the liberty of the individual which has brought us every advance of knowledge and invention – liberty without which life to a self-respecting man is not worth living.”

Einstein encouraged his audience to “resist the powers which threaten to suppress intellectual and individual freedom” and explained that “without such freedom there would have been no Shakespeare, no Goethe, no Newton, no Faraday, no Pasteur and no Lister” and how “It is only men who are free, who create the inventions and intellectual works which to us moderns make life worthwhile.” (The full text of Einstein’s ‘Science and Civilization’ lecture, scanned from the CARA archives, is available here. And an audio recording of a small section is available here.)

In 1966 Lord Lionel C. Robbins (right) addressed the Royal Society, as its president, on the issue of Academic Freedom. He asserted that "a society which respects and cherishes the freedom of its academic institutions and their members is much less likely to fall victim to the enemies of freedom in general than a society which does not”, and went on to pose the question: “Without freedom, how little of what happens on this planet has ultimate moral significance?" (Proceedings of the British Academy Vol. 52 pp45-60).

More recently Professor John Sexton (left), President of New York University, in his address to the Inaugural Meeting of the CARA SAR UK Universities Network, in March 2006, reiterated the importance of academic freedom;

“By seeing what happens in societies where universities and scholars are put at extreme risk, we come to better appreciate why we defend what we do and better recognize the warning signs of the erosion of those freedoms… without genuine academic freedom, our universities will not fulfil their core mission: the enlargement of what we know, how deeply we know, and the number of those who know." (Full text available here.)


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