The #StopTheWitchHunt campaign has raised concerns that academic freedom within British universities is at risk after a letter was recently sent by a Government whip to all UK universities asking for the names of those involved in teaching European affairs "with particular reference to Brexit". The letter also asked for a copy of each university's syllabus and any online lectures on Brexit.
Academics widely criticised this letter on the basis that it was an attempt to restrict academic freedom.
The Government has claimed that it is committed to academic freedom and that it cannot interfere in the manner in which courses are taught, in which they are supervised or in which they are assessed. The Leader of the House of Commons has argued that the letter was very "courteous" and "not at all threatening". She has also stated that it was "odd" for universities to "react in such a negative way".
I believe that academics and students are perfectly capable of critical thinking and discussion about policy issues like Brexit. Universities do not need the Government telling them what they are allowed to teach. I believe it was unacceptable for a Government whip to attempt to compile information about what is being taught at universities, and by whom.
I will follow developments on these matters closely and will continue to defend the principle of academic freedom.