The declaration was approved by all Canadian
university presidents during the last meeting of the ASCC
(Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada). It underlines
the major importance of academic freedom for the functioning of
society and what university leaders and faculty need to do to
"Academic freedom is the freedom to teach and conduct research
in an academic environment. Academic freedom is fundamental to the
mandate of universities to pursue truth, educate students and
disseminate knowledge and understanding.
In teaching, academic freedom is fundamental to the protection
of the rights of the teacher to teach and of the student to learn.
In research and scholarship, it is critical to advancing knowledge.
Academic freedom includes the right to freely communicate knowledge
and the results of research and scholarship.
Unlike the broader concept of freedom of speech, academic
freedom must be based on institutional integrity, rigorous
standards for enquiry and institutional autonomy, which allows
universities to set their research and educational priorities.
Why is academic freedom important to
Academic freedom does not exist for its own sake, but rather for
important social purposes. Academic freedom is essential to the
role of universities in a democratic society. Universities are
committed to the pursuit of truth and its communication to others,
including students and the broader community. To do this, faculty
must be free to take intellectual risks and tackle controversial
subjects in their teaching, research and scholarship.
For Canadians, it is important to know that views expressed by
faculty are based on solid research, data and evidence, and that
universities are autonomous and responsible institutions committed
to the principles of integrity.
The responsibilities of academic freedom
Evidence and truth are the guiding principles for universities
and the community of scholars that make up their faculty and
students. Thus, academic freedom must be based on reasoned
discourse, rigorous extensive research and scholarship, and peer
Academic freedom is constrained by the professional standards of
the relevant discipline and the responsibility of the institution
to organize its academic mission. The insistence on professional
standards speaks to the rigor of the enquiry and not to its
The constraint of institutional requirements recognizes simply
that the academic mission, like other work, has to be organized
according to institutional needs. This includes the institution's
responsibility to select and appoint faculty and staff, to admit
and discipline students, to establish and control curriculum, to
make organizational arrangements for the conduct of academic work,
to certify completion of a program and to grant degrees.
Roles and responsibilities
University leadership: It is a
major responsibility of university governing bodies and senior
officers to protect and promote academic freedom. This includes
ensuring that funding and other partnerships do not interfere with
autonomy in deciding what is studied and how. Canada's university
presidents must play a leadership role in communicating the values
around academic freedom to internal and external stakeholders. The
university must also defend academic freedom against
interpretations that are excessive or too loose, and the claims
that may spring from such definitions.
To ensure and protect academic freedom, universities must be
autonomous, with their governing bodies committed to integrity and
free to act in the institution's best interests.
Universities must also ensure that the rights and freedoms of
others are respected, and that academic freedom is exercised in a
reasonable and responsible manner.
Faculty: Faculty must be
committed to the highest ethical standards in their teaching and
research. They must be free to examine data, question assumptions
and be guided by evidence.
Faculty have an equal responsibility to submit their knowledge
and claims to rigourous and public review by peers who are experts
in the subject matter under consideration and to ground their
arguments in the best available evidence.
Faculty members and university leaders have an obligation to
ensure that students' human rights are respected and that they are
encouraged to pursue their education according to the principles of
Faculty also share with university leadership the responsibility
of ensuring that pressures from funding and other types of
partnerships do not unduly influence the intellectual work of the