Tory MP’s Brexit Lecturers Request an “Attempt to Undermine Academic Freedom”, Says University


Universities are refusing to comply with a request sent out by Tory MP and Whip Christ Heaton-Harris, which asked for a list of professors lecturing about Brexit.  The letter, sent out to Vice Chancellors across the country, specifically asked for “the names of your professors… who are involved in the teaching of European Affairs, with particular reference to Brexit”.

However, the demand was quickly criticised by opposition parties and universities.  It is unclear whether any institutions have complied with the request, but students and staff at some universities have been assured that the information will not be shared.

Students and staff at the University of York, for example, received an email from the Vice Chancellor, Koen Lamberts, who wrote:

As some of you may be aware from recent media reports, a member of Parliament, Chris Heaton-Harris, has written to every vice chancellor in England, asking for the names of academic colleagues who are engaged in teaching ‘European affairs’, with particular reference to Brexit. He also asked to see syllabus materials and online content. The University of York received his letter last week. 

Although the MP does not explain the motivation for his request, I am deeply concerned that it may be part of an attempt to question, challenge or undermine academic freedom in universities. I want to assure you all that we will not provide the information requested by Mr Heaton-Harris. Instead, I will write to him to explain the importance of academic autonomy and independent critical enquiry in a democratic society, and our duty, enshrined in law, to resist in the strongest way possible any attempts to undermine academic freedom.

Chris Heaton-Harris has since said the request was for a book he is writing, while Tory Minister Jo Johnson has said his colleague was very much “regretting his decision”.  The Universities minister also insisted that “the government is absolutely committed to academic freedom and to freedom of speech in our universities”.

Opposition parties also criticised Heaton-Harris, suggesting the pro-Brexit MP was trying to compile a list of professors who are against Brexit. Some called for him to be stripped from his role as a whip.  However, Heaton-Harris has found a supporter in fellow Tory MP Phillip Davis, who told the Telegraph universities are "full of left wing lecturers forcing their opinions on their students"


Toby Gould, Student Voices editor
Tory MP’s Brexit Lecturers Request an “Attempt to Undermine Academic Freedom”, Says University Tory MP’s Brexit Lecturers Request an “Attempt to Undermine Academic Freedom”, Says University Reviewed by Student Voices on 14:54 Rating: 5

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