Academic Freedom

Academic Freedom Policy

Policy Code: LT2036

Purpose

In accordance with the Higher Education Support Act 2003 and the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015, this policy articulates how Federation University Australia (the University) will promote and protect academic freedom.

This policy ensures that academic freedom is a defining value of the University pursuant to the objects of the Model Code for the Protection of Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom in Australian Higher Education Providers.

Scope

This policy applies across the University, including:

  1. The University’s Council, officers, employees, students and other decision-making bodies, including those involved in academic governance.
  2. Student representative bodies to the extent that they have policies and rules which are capable of being applied to restrict academic freedom.

Legislative Context

  • Federation University Australia Act 2010 (Vic)
  • Higher Education Support Act 2003
  • Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015
  • National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011
  • Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2014
  • Education and Training Reform Act 2006
  • Commonwealth discrimination legislation, including the Age Discrimination Act 2004, Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986, Disability Discrimination Act 1992, Racial Discrimination Act 1975, and the Sex Discrimination Act 1984.
  • Victorian discrimination legislation, including the Equal Opportunity Act 2010  and the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001

Definitions

Term Definition
academic freedom

Academic Freedom comprises the following:-

  • The freedom of academic staff to teach, discuss, exhibit artistic works or public performances, research, as well as disseminate and publish the results of their research
  • The freedom of academic staff and students to engage in intellectual inquiry, to express their opinions and beliefs, and to contribute to public debate, in relation to their subjects of study and research
  • The freedom of academic staff and students to express their opinions in relation to the higher education provider in which they work or are enrolled
  • The freedom of academic staff, without constraint imposed by reason of their employment by the university, to make lawful public comment on any issues in their personal capacities
  • The freedom of academic staff to participate in professional or representative academic bodies
  • The freedom of students to participate in student societies and associations
academic staff means all those who are employed by the university to teach and/or carry out research and extends to those who provide, whether on an honorary basis or otherwise, teaching services and/or conduct research at the university.
freedom of speech means the freedom of staff, students, and invited visitors to the University to express lawful opinions publicly, without undue restriction.
imposed by law in relation to restrictions or burdens or conditions on a freedom include restrictions or burdens or conditions imposed by statute law, the common law (including the law of defamation), duties of confidentiality, restrictions deriving from intellectual property law and restrictions imposed by contract.
invited visiting speaker any person who has been invited by the university to speak on the university’s land or facilities.
speech extends to all forms of expressive conduct including oral speech and written, artistic, musical and performing works and activity and communication using social media; the word ‘speak’ has a corresponding meaning.
staff means all employees of the university whether full-time or part-time and whether or not academic staff.
University policies includes University statutes, regulations, policies, procedures, codes of conduct, guidelines and manuals, as amended from time to time.
unlawful means in contravention of a prohibition or restriction or condition imposed by law.
wellbeing of students and staff
  • includes the duty to ensure that no member of staff and no student suffers unfair disadvantage or unfair adverse discrimination on any basis recognised at law including race, gender, sexuality, religion and political belief;
  • includes the duty to ensure that no member of staff and no student is subject to threatening or intimidating behaviour by another person or persons on account of anything they have said or proposed to say in exercising their freedom of speech;
  • supports reasonable and proportionate measures to prevent any person from using lawful speech which a reasonable person would regard, in the circumstances, as likely to humiliate or intimidate other persons and which is intended to have either or both of those effects;
  • does not extend to a duty to protect any person from feeling offended or shocked or insulted by the lawful speech of another.

Policy Statement

Academic freedom is a defining value of the University. This policy sets out the means by which the University promotes and protects academic freedom, but it is not to be inferred that the statements in this policy automatically extend to the broader right to freedom of speech.

Academic freedom is essential to the purpose of the University and central to the advancement of knowledge through research, scholarship, and teaching. The University fully supports the rights of its staff and students to engage in open and robust debate in the pursuit of truth and understanding, and to hear and express diverse opinions and beliefs as they do so.

Academic freedom of expression is not restricted except by:

  • Limits imposed by law; or
  • University policies designed to prevent undue disruption to its activities, or undue risk to the wellbeing of students and staff; or
  • Reasonable requirements imposed by the University as necessary to give effect to its legal duties and its teaching and research activities.

Subject to these limitations, academic staff and students, as well as invited visiting speakers, have the right to express their opinions freely and to hear those of others.

The University will:

  • Protect and promote academic freedom in the conduct of its affairs, so that all academic staff and students may engage in inquiry, research, scholarship, teaching, or public commentary without fear or favour.
  • Recognise viewpoint diversity and the right to express opinions on University campuses and in public forums such as the media.
  • Investigate complaints and issues regarding abuses of or undue restrictions on academic freedom through the Chair of Academic Board.

University academic staff and students have the right to:

  • Exercise academic freedom by expressing opinions without fear of being harassed, intimidated or vilified by other staff or students.
  • Express opinions through acts of speech, without being subject to undue restriction or sanction by the University.
  • Express opinions that may be unpopular or controversial, and that may cause offence; while recognising that this does not mean the right to harass, intimidate or vilify any other individuals or groups.

University staff and students have a responsibility to:

  • Act lawfully and ethically.
  • Respect the rights of others.
  • Observe University policies.
  • Express views with intellectual honesty.
  • Make it clear that a view they express is their own, not that of the University.

Responsibility

University Council (as Approval Authority) is responsible for monitoring the implementation, outcomes and scheduled review of this policy and its accompanying procedure.

Chair, Academic Board (as Policy Sponsor) is responsible for maintaining the content of this policy as delegated by Academic Board.

Promulgation

The Academic Freedom Policy will be communicated throughout the University via:

  1. An Announcement Notice under ‘FedNews’ website and through the University Policy - ‘Recently Approved Documents’ webpage to alert the University-wide community of the approved Policy.
  2. Inclusion on the Policies, Procedures and Forms section of the University’s website to alert the University-wide community of the approved Policy.

Implementation

The Academic Freedom Policy will be implemented across the University.