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Conceptions of Academic Freedom in English Faith-Based Universities and University Colleges

Precious, Carol (2014) Conceptions of Academic Freedom in English Faith-Based Universities and University Colleges. EdD thesis, Institute of Education.

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Academic freedom is a contested concept, and in the present climate in higher education, is currently considered by many academics to be under threat nationally and internationally. This thesis focuses on how academic freedom is conceived and addressed within the context of a particular sector of higher education. The focus of the study was the fourteen English members of the Cathedrals Group, which is a distinctive sector in higher education, as the members are universities and university colleges with a historical faith-base. Formerly established as Church teacher-training colleges, these institutions have latterly evolved and gained university college and university status. Within higher education, faith-based institutions differ from secular universities and university colleges in that they have a historical relationship with their founding Church, which continues to be a part of their institutional identity to the present day. The reason for selecting this group of institutions was that faith-based institutions are sometimes criticised for placing limits on academic freedom. The empirical data for this research was gathered from indepth semi-structured interviews with eleven senior managers and eleven academics. The findings indicated that although there were isolated instances where academics had experienced restrictions, for the majority of those interviewed there was no tension between the institutions’ faith-base and their academic freedom. The Christian foundation was not an important consideration, had little effect upon their academic work, and academics’ definitions and experiences of academic freedom were reported as no different from traditional conceptions of academic freedom. One of the possible explanations offered for this is that in their progression towards achieving university status, the institutions have become increasingly secularised and therefore for many academics the possibility of any limitations to academic freedom in relation to the faithbase of their institution was not an issue for consideration.

Item Type: Thesis (EdD)
Controlled Keywords: Qualitative research, academic freedom, faith based universities
Subjects: Departments > Humanities and Social Sciences
Depositing User: Mr Graeme Naylor
Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2014 13:47
Last Modified: 23 Mar 2015 11:24
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