ACADEMIC FREEDOM – RHETORIC OR REALITY?

Michael J Beloff QC

Abstract


Academic freedom is a concept that has a particular significance in a University, not least in a University, which, uniquely in a British context, prides itself on its independence from the State. My interest in academic freedom was sparked by a set of instructions received in this instance from the Government of Hong Kong.  The issue in the prospective litigation was relatively simple.  The Department of Education had planned some reforms.  As is no more unusual in Hong Kong than it is in England, the proposals met with vocal opposition from certain academics.  A senior civil servant telephoned the head of the faculty of the Hong Kong institution of Education, the focus of the controversy and – it was asserted and indeed found by a Commission of Inquiry (“the Commission”) established to investigate the affair – suggested that the turbulent teachers be disciplined.

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