THE academic freedom with reference to institutes of higher learning is a multifaceted idea. Granting rights to the academic community, both staff and students, as inquirers is one fundamental aspect associated with it.

The freedom to study, to access information, teach, research and publish are all integrated parts that fall under the umbrella of academic freedom. All this, indeed, is subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties.

As part of society, the academic community should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. More precisely, the academic mentors should not forget that the public is more judgmental not only about their profession, but also about their institution in terms of what the academicians utter or practise.

It is, indeed, true that you may not be accurate all the time, but it is highly significant to do one’s backend work properly, and to pay due attention to the thoughts of the others.

The entitlement to freedom in the classroom in discussing subjects does not mean to be carefree about controversial matters, especially when it is not relevant to their subject.

Let us, for instance, consider a simple case. In Pakistan, the industry-academia linkage has long been debated and the academicians are usually criticised for and taken as the main culprit behind the missing link.

However, when it comes to the right to undertake professional activities outside of academic employment, it is strictly prohibited or is at least discouraged. Moreover, academicians are not free to design courses due to restrictions and certain guidelines.

Institutional autonomy in general implies that it is the responsibility of the institution to formulate and protect the principles of academic freedom considering the norms of society. There is an internal setup within the institutions of higher learning in order to execute and keep an eye on the internal affairs as well as to cope with the interference of the funding authorities.

The authorities that are supposedly the facilitator of higher education should learn to respect and protect academic freedom and to take measures in order to ensure effective enjoyment of this right and its promotion.

The classrooms, especially those at institutions of higher learning, are actually nurseries of ideas on which a nation’s future depends.

The future leaders must be trained in an open and enlightened academic environment and through a healthy exchange of views for which academic freedom is a necessity.

A deep commitment to safeguarding academic freedom may secure and will ensure a brighter future of the nation.

Dr Intikhab Ulfat

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2021



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