The unimpeded search for knowledge and its free exposition are vital to a university and to the common good of society. To this end, [UNB and AUNBT] agree to strive to uphold and to protect the principles of academic freedom and not to infringe upon or abridge academic freedom as set out in [Article 14 of full-time and contract academic Collective Agreements].

Academic Freedom: A Summary
Jon Thompson (Professor Emeritus, AUNBT President 1980-82)

“Academic freedom is a central value, arguably the central value, of university life,” law professor and former university president Harry Arthurs declared in 1995 [1]. What are the nature and purpose of this value? By what means is it protected in Canada? When did it arise? How did it develop?

In its most clearly characterized and defensible form, academic freedom is a right of university academic staff held by virtue of their institutional employment. In outline, its purpose is to ensure they can challenge received wisdom, put forward new ideas, participate freely in collegial governance, and exercise fully their rights as citizens without suffering any institutional penalties [2]. As such, it differs from general freedom of expression for all citizens protected through the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and provincial human rights codes. In Canadian universities the right to academic freedom is protected through articles in collective bargaining agreements.

Academic freedom is not absolute. It must be exercised within the law and in accordance with the collective agreement. It does not empower one academic to infringe the right of another.

The concept has ancient origins: in societies across the globe it was often accepted that, for the common good, deeply learned persons should have freedom of expression. In the Western world, universities long had religious restrictions and thus modern forms of academic freedom began to arise only in the nineteenth century when ideas of the Enlightenment entered universities from the wider society. Freedom of expression was widely practised and promoted by public intellectuals such as Germaine de Staël, Wilhelm von Humboldt and John Stuart Mill, noted scholars but not academics.

The most comprehensive and best protected characterization of academic freedom developed in Canada, for several reasons. First, the response of academic staff from coast to coast to the summary dismissal of historian Harry Crowe in 1958 was to build CAUT into a strong national faculty association. Second, the similar nature of employment and collective bargaining legislation across the provinces facilitated uniform policy establishment by CAUT. Third, robust exercise of academic freedom during the past half century by many courageous academics with the support of their colleagues and CAUT demonstrated repeatedly that academic freedom is for the common good.

Below you will find a list of resources and further reading on the subject of academic freedom.

Recommended Reading
Bibliographies and Other Resources