Friday, December 22, 2006

Freedom of speech and other items

(1) As reported in the Guardian and the Times Higher this week, a group of academic staff in the UK have published a statement calling for "freedom of speech" in academia. The issue is over whether or not staff should be unfettered to make any kind of comment, related to their own specialist area or not. In a sense it aims to allow universities to be a public space for debate and diversity of opinion. Of course, some have responded by questioning whether an absolute right in this way runs the danger not of having unsavoury views expressed (as has been the case in the past for example with holocaust deniers and racist opinion) but rather whether this could actually end up providing toleration of bullying and discrimination which might threaten staff and students. However, it may be that this is a bit of a red-herring since legislation and procedures are already in place to deal with such behaviour. Read the statement for yourself and decide. Academics for Academic Freedom

(2) Although it is accepted by many as happening in practice, few institutions have gone so far as Bangor University in Wales to actually have recorded in an official document the fact that the quickest way up the UK league tables is to increase the number of firsts and upper seconds at honours level. The Times Higher (once again!) has the story. Sad reflection of the times we're in perhaps. But as reported here and elsewhere there is a growing pressure in the UK to end degree classifications, probably in recognition of this trend. When over 70% of students were graduating with these top grades from Liverpool University earlier this year the issue became quite clear.

(3) The EC Lifelong Learning Programme published its call for applications the other day. This new programme replaces Socrates, Leonardo da Vinci and the eLearning programmes. Full details, for those who want to spend Christmas working on a funding application, are available at

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