Monthly Archives: January 2014

Academic freedom and social responsibility: conflicting factors in a university’s ethos?

As Edinburgh University publishes a consultation paper on responsible investment, JWI director Tim Hayward offers some reflections (re-blogged from Global Justice Academy Blog)


Why should a university be socially responsible?  A question thrown into relief by the current debate over universities’ investments concerns the social role of the university and the relation of that to its core academic activities.  In a thoughtful response to an earlier blog where I argued in favour of the fossil fuel divestment campaign, a critic, Nick Geiser, objects that the campaign is ‘forcing universities to “take a side” in the climate change debate and committing the university to a particular set of political objectives.’  This, he maintains, ‘is a radical attack on the principles of scholarship and academic freedom and threatens open debate in higher education.’  Since that sounds like a damaging charge, I’d like to consider more carefully why we should suppose that urging a university to take a decision that may be perceived to have a distinctive political colour is necessarily a threat to academic freedom or any other core value of a university. Continue reading