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UCU asks universities minister to defend academic freedom on World Teachers' Day

To mark World Teachers' Day, UCU has written to the universities minister Jo Johnson today (Thursday) asking him to improve protections for academic freedom in higher education.

The letter, from UCU general secretary Sally Hunt, raises concerns about the lack of legal protection for academic freedom in UK universities, and points to UCU research which suggests that UK protections are weaker than those in other EU nations.

The letter also asks the minister to ensure the UK complies fully with the 1997 UNESCO recommendation on the status of higher education teaching personnel, which sets out a number of key elements considered crucial to academic freedom. These include ensuring academic staff are involved in university governance, and providing secure, long-term employment for teaching staff.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'World Teachers' Day is a great chance to reflect on the wonderful work our teachers in colleges and universities do every day, but also to think about how we can support them better in the future.

'Academic freedom is crucial to ensure that difficult subjects can be tackled within our education system. That's why it's so worrying that, 20 years on from the 1997 UNESCO recommendation on the status of higher education teaching personnel, the UK is at the bottom of the pile when it comes to academic freedom in Europe.

'On behalf of UCU members, I am urging the minister to improve protections for academic freedom in the UK. We need urgent action to improve staff involvement in university governance and tackle rising job insecurity if we want to safeguard against abuses of academic freedom in our institutions.'

Last updated: 6 October 2017

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