Proposals to strengthen academic freedom to be examined


Proposals to strengthen academic freedom in colleges and universities are to be examined by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee as it scrutinises the Higher Education (Governance) Scotland Bill.

The Bill expands the current definition of academic freedom to cover the freedom to develop and advance new ideas and innovative proposals. 

Measures to change the governance structure of higher education institutions are also included in the Bill. According to the Scottish Government these changes will improve transparency and give a greater voice to students and staff.  

Committee Convener, Stewart Maxwell MSP said:

“Scotland is home to some of the world’s leading universities. These institutions are at the forefront of research as well as developing new technology. Their work changes lives but for our universities to succeed they must have the freedom to develop these innovative ideas. 

“There has been a very recent and often heated debate about comments made by some leading academics, which have raised a number of issues about freedom of expression. We will therefore explore the likely practical impact of redefining academic freedom and exactly how it is to be strengthened.  

“The Bill before us also proposes to change the way higher education is governed in Scotland. It aims to create a modern and accountable framework that is more inclusive of students, staff and unions. We will look closely at how the Bill hopes to achieve this and would encourage all of those with an interest to give their views.” 

To help inform its consideration of the Bill, the Committee has today launched a call for written submissions. Questions include: 

Academic Freedom

  • The likely practical effects of the provisions on academic freedom.
  • Are there are likely to be any significant constraints – other than legal constraints – on academic freedom?
  • Are the situations in which relevant persons can exercise their academic freedom clear?

Higher Education Governance

  • What you consider to be the existing problems (if any) with higher education governance, particularly around modernity, inclusion and accountability.
  • How will the Bill improve higher education governance?
  • Will the Bill alter the higher education sector’s current level of autonomy?
  • Will there be any impact on the lines of accountability between the Scottish Government, relevant public bodies and the higher education sector?


The Higher Education Governance (Scotland) Bill takes forward a number of recommendations from the 2012 review of governance in Scottish universities and other higher education institutions, chaired by Robert Gordon University Principal, Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski. 

The closing date for responses is 4 September 2015. Responses should be sent to:  

Clerk to the Education and Culture Committee

Room T3.40  

The Scottish Parliament  


EH99 1SP  

Or via email on:

Written evidence is welcome in English, Gaelic or any other language

Submit your views here

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