Contributor Perspectives

As Academic Freedom Teeters, Will the Old Become New Again?

Ian Morris
Board of Contributors
Oct 12, 2018 | 06:30 GMT
University students in an auditorium listen to their lecturer. Despite the success of the modern university, increasing numbers of people seem to see academically free universities as a luxury they no longer wish to support.
Almost half of American academics were tenured in 1975; by 2015, the figure was 25 percent, and full-time positions now make up just half of the total.

Academically free universities are one of the West's great strategic assets. According to The Times Higher Educational Supplement, only two of the world's top 50 universities are in countries that routinely restrict academic freedom, and according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, each time a country doubles its number of academically free universities, it reliably adds 4 percent to its GDP. Academic freedom's soft-power payout is arguably even greater, with more than 1.2 million foreign students flocking to American universities in 2018. Despite the astounding success of the modern university, increasing numbers of people seem to think that the conditions that made academic freedom seem like such a good idea have now changed so much that academically free universities are just a luxury. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries currently spend an average of 1.6 percent of GDP on higher education because their citizens think it is good investment,...

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