Viewpoint Diversity Around the World

Heterodox Academy was founded in 2015 to address the problem of declining political diversity and rising hostility toward dissenting views at American universities. At that time we thought this was a uniquely American problem. But it became clear within a year that these trends are happening in many other countries, particularly in the UK, but also in Australia, Canada and South Africa. In response, we opened our membership to professors anywhere in the world who publish in English (so that we can vet their work). On this page we report relevant studies and link to relevant press coverage of events in countries around the world. The problem seems to be most severe in English speaking countries.

 

United Kingdom

Analysis

The same shift in the politics of professors that we see in the US has also occurred in Britain. We’re also seeing rising evidence of restrictions on free speech and free inquiry. In Britain they have long had an active “no platforming” campaign to prevent fascists (such as the BNP) from speaking on campus. But in recent years it seems that anyone whose views contradict the majority view on campus is a candidate for no-platforming (see this 2017 BBC-news video on the climate at Cambridge). In response, we have seen an increase in membership from the UK as more academics grow concerned about these trends and the environment it fosters. Heterodox Academy was recently profiled in The Times. And, as of the third and fourth quarter of 2017, the UK government is telling universities they ‘must commit to free speech’ under new plans.

Relevant HxA Content

It is now well known that the American professoriate has been shifting leftward in its politics since the 1990s. In a new report for the Adam Smith Institute, I document that the British professoriate has been undergoing the same leftward shift, beginning in the 1980s.

Efforts to disinvite or “no-platform” speakers, and other restrictions on speech, are increasingly common at British universities, according to the new 2017 UK university rankings by Spiked.  For the past three years, they have employed a traffic-light system (Red/Amber/Green), similar to that of FIRE, and this post briefly explores how the current trends on UK campuses differ from similar efforts in the US. To see a summary of Spiked’s methodology, please read our prior post from November 2016.

Heterodox Academy has primarily focused on the academy’s problem with viewpoint diversity within the United States. Yet, viewpoint diversity is increasingly an issue in other Western countries- most prominently in the United Kingdom. For the past two years, Spiked has ranked British universities with a traffic-light system for free speech, similar to the systems employed by FIRE and ISI. This blog post briefly summarizes the criteria employed by Spiked and presents some examples university policies and actions that can result in lower (RED) or higher (GREEN) rankings for free speech.

 

Australia

Analysis

Australia has fewer instances of events and less constricting environmental conditions that foster the need for increased viewpoint diversity in the academy. However, it is imperative that university administrators “down under” pay careful attention to the climate being fostered on their campuses. While the political division is less apparent, there is a developing trend of restricting free speech on campus that is troubling for those concerned with the vitality of free expression and free inquiry and their many concurrent benefits to all in the academic field. The Heterodox Academy team will closely monitor news and reports from Australian universities and organizations and will look into how we can amplify awareness of viewpoint diversity in Australia in the coming year.

Relevant HxA Content

While the mission of Heterodox Academy is focused on the threats to viewpoint diversity and free expression on American campuses, in November we explored the emergence of parallel trends in the United Kingdom. This phenomenon has also reached Australia, where a May 2016 report by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) highlights the extent to which free speech has come under threat at ninety-eight percent of Australian universities. This blog includes a summary of IPA’s methodology, key findings, and examples of university actions that affect their free speech ratings.

 

Canada

Analysis

Like Australia, Canada has experienced fewer issues surrounding political orthodoxy than its American counterparts. However, recent events surrounding talks by University of Toronto professor Jordan Petersen have made our team more aware of a slowly growing climate of orthodoxy. We will continue to examine how we can influence discussion and raise the level of public consciousness around viewpoint diversity in Canada.

Relevant HxA Content

  • After learning about the Chicago Principles via Heterodox Academy, two alumni of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario launched a petition to have Queen’s become the first Canadian school to endorse the Chicago Principles.  Their petition can be found here: www.tinyurl.com/queensuchicago.

Relevant News

 

South Africa

Analysis

There are some initial reports that aggressive and even violent responses to some speakers and ideas are occurring in South Africa. The linked news article below outlines many of the recent events at a top South African university, some of which mirror actions at US and Canadian universities. As this is a new area for us to consider, we will look to share our resources and draw attention via public platforms to advance viewpoint diversity in South Africa.

 

Relevant HxA Content

  • to come

Relevant News

 

We invite you to submit news stories, suggestions or questions to Jeremy Willinger.