Academic freedom and the commercialisation of universities: a critical ethical analysis

Kathleen Lynch, Mariya Ivancheva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


This paper explores the cultural and organisational dimensions of academic life that lay the foundations for academic freedom. We briefly review the relationship between university autonomy and academic freedom, the relationship between ethics and freedom and the impact of increased commercialisation on scholarly independence, particularly how the increasing casualization of employment limits the freedom of academics to teach critically and publish freely. We examine the geopolitics of knowledge and how the hegemony of Western thinking frames dominant epistemologies and imposes constraints on academic freedom. We also explore the ways in which Cartesian rationalism underpins contemporary understanding of what constitutes valid knowledge, and how this can and does act as a constraint in what we come to know and study, not least in terms of values but also in terms of how caring (affective) relations impact research and teaching. Our paper highlights the silenced doxa in the organisation of the academy, including the impact of care-lessness on women and primary care givers in particular. We examine the social class biases in how higher education is organised, and how class exclusions are themselves constraints on being an academic or a student in a university. Finally, the paper illustrates the importance of distinguishing between the institutional autonomy of the university, the personal and professional freedoms of individual academics, and each of these from subject autonomy, namely the freedom of scholars to create and maintain new disciplinary fields, especially fields of scholarship that are critical and challenging of prevailing academic orthodoxies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-85
Number of pages15
JournalEthics in Science and Environmental Politics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2015


  • academic freedom
  • higher education
  • marketisation
  • autonomy
  • tenure
  • casualization
  • neoliberalism
  • care-lessness


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