This Policy should be read with 'Academic Freedom Policy'

NTEU will take action to pursue the Union's policy objectives related to Academic Freedom.

At the institutional level

NTEU will:

  • Advocate for governance policies and practices that promote intellectual and academic freedom at all levels of higher education institutions; 

  • Campaign for the codification of legally enforceable employment rights in relevant industrial agreements as the best form of protection of intellectual and academic freedom; 

  • Pursue and defend intellectual and academic freedom as key provisions in all enterprise agreements negotiated with universities;
  • Promote and work to preserve the central role of academic boards/senates in academic governance and to protect the academic governance role from the encroachment of increasing executive power and decision-making.
In addition, NTEU commits to promoting academic freedom on our university campuses by: 

  • Advocate for the protection and promotion of institutional autonomy and academic freedom for Australian universities and their staff through legislative measures and legislative enforcement, including a practical commitment to the principles outlined in the UNESCO statement on the rights and responsibilities of higher education teaching personnel;
  • Through its membership of Education International and Scholars at Risk, advocate for broad international acceptance and adoption of the principles of academic and intellectual freedom and institutional independence and autonomy in all universities worldwide;
  • Lobby and campaign against further changes to the composition of university governing bodies that would reduce the representation and participation of staff, students, parliamentary representatives and alumni, and, where these have been reduced, for the restoration of previous levels of representation and participation; and
  • Provide support, training and advice on academic and intellectual freedom principles and issues to NTEU members, in particular those members who are engaged with university academic and corporate governance through membership of university governing councils/senates and academic boards.
  • Monitoring and documenting breaches of ‘freedom of intellectual inquiry’ policies, intellectual and/or academic freedom provisions in enterprise agreements, and/or institutional statements of academic freedom that sit outside enterprise agreements;
  • Monitoring and documenting restrictions upon staff or students’ exercise of academic freedom, whether through explicit policy, implicit pressure or implied threat;
  • Monitoring and analysing the implementation of the new wave of anti-terrorism legislation, foreign interference laws and expansion of ASIO powers or through the implementation of Defence Trade Controls legislation; and
  • Supporting and protecting members who may disclose, in the public interest, information regarding serious wrongdoing within, by, or related to, an institution.
Noting the NTEU’s strong position on Academic and Intellectual Freedom, the relative weakness of the Higher Education Support Act provisions as they relate to intellectual freedom and the significant threats to academic and intellectual freedom arising from managerial overuse of behaviour regulation such as codes of conduct. 

National Council directs that: 

  1. The Union pursues legally enforceable clauses in enterprise agreements to provide for the promotion and protection of academic freedom; and 

  2. Campaigning on academic and intellectual freedom be established as a high priority at all levels of the Union; and 

  3. The National Executive consider an Academic and Intellectual Freedom Award to be presented annually at National Council.

On a broader policy level NTEU will:

  • Contest research performance measures and benchmarking requirements that distorts the kind of research that is undertaken and how it is disseminated;
  • Emphasise and protect the importance of ensuring the prominence of peer review; and
  • Advocate against policies that unnecessarily constrain academic freedom through for example, policies that form part of Australia’s counter terrorism regime.

On the international stage NTEU will continue to play an active role within Education International, Scholars at Risk, and other networks.