Russell Group University accused of Soviet-style censorship
A Russell Group university has been accused of Soviet-style censorship after demanding that new humanities courses “move away” from a “white, Eurocentric” curriculum.
Academics in the Department of Social Sciences and International Studies (SSIS) at the University of Exeter were told that they should “incorporate” these changes when updating existing modules or creating new ones.
A speaker said he was “shocked” by this stipulation and claimed that the faculty – which oversees a number of disciplines such as law, politics, sociology, philosophy and anthropology – infringes academic freedom “In the deepest sense of the word”.
“It’s like there’s a Maoist cultural revolution going on in our learning centers,” an academic told The Telegraph.
“It’s just ridiculous – we’re supposed to be a top Russell Group university. It affects thousands of students and hundreds of academics.”
The scholar said the movement to “decolonize” the program had quickly shifted from “fashionable marginal theory” to “adoption as the new orthodoxy” in universities.
He compared the Soviet Union’s approach where academics could be asked to prove how their courses would advance radical socialism in the face of reactionary capitalist imperialism in the West.
“What’s the difference here in the UK, where we’re supposed to be a free liberal democracy?” he said.
Earlier this week, a new academic freedom bill was introduced in the Queen’s Speech which education secretary Gavin Williamson said will end the “chilling effect of censorship on campus once for all”.
English universities could face fines if they fail to protect freedom of speech on campus, under stricter legislation.
Academics, students or guest lecturers will be able to seek compensation in court if they suffer a loss due to a violation of the rules of free speech.
Professors at the University of Exeter fear that if they do not demonstrate that they are “decolonizing” their curriculum, their courses will not be accredited.
A document titled “SSIL Accreditation Cover Sheet,” seen by The Telegraph, states that any new modules or changes to existing modules should be sent to the SSIS Quality and Standards team.
Academics are encouraged to ‘think about how you have viewed and incorporated’ various concepts into the design of their module, such as providing a welcome learning environment, supporting equality and diversity, and promoting student participation.
As part of the course accreditation process due to start in September, teachers should also reflect on how they “broaden epistemological and ontological horizons away from a white and Eurocentric curriculum”.
The academic said this goes against the university’s own policy on academic freedom and also creates a “chilling effect.”
He said: “There are a lot of people here who feel the same way as I do, but no one will come forward because there is a deep culture of fear.”
A spokesperson for the University of Exeter said: “The advice from the Quality Assurance Agency calls on us to consider the needs of all students – including those who study in different places, from different backgrounds. cultural / educational, with additional learning needs or with protected characteristics – when we design modules.
“We are an international organization with staff and students from all over the world and from a wide range of backgrounds, and it is right that this is recognized in our teaching, the content of our programs and our assessment.”
A spokesperson for the Students’ Office said: “Freedom of speech and academic freedom are essential elements of a successful higher education system. Students should be able to study from a range of texts, including scholars who deviate from orthodoxy.
“All universities will want to ensure that they are aware of their obligations to promote academic freedom and freedom of expression in all areas of their work, as well as their duties under equality law.