Is academic freedom feasible in the post-Soviet space of higher education?

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The legacy of totalitarianism thwarts discourse and practice of academic freedom in post-Soviet universities. For legacy-holders, “academic freedom” causes disorientation, irresponsibility, demoralization and inequity. They see more threats than benefits from empowering decision-makers who are non-compliant with local bureaucracy. For innovators, freedoms enhance flexibility and creativity. However, granting such freedom also reinforces value clashes on campuses and tends to intensify feelings of guilt and shame in regard to actions which show a disrespect of authority and tradition. While both legacy-holders and innovators endeavour to redefine their practices and norms in their teaching, they appear to still struggle to shed their predispositions to a paternalistic and colonial philosophy of education. Presumably curative, their engagement with international networks of scholarship exposes their particular positions of vulnerabilities to that end. Both groups continue to push patriotism and cultural idiosyncrasy in order to hedge their power and status in the global marketplace of ideas. As in the past, a discourse of anti-westernization prevails, shoring up legacies of regulative thinking, indoctrination, and insularity. Progressive academics succeed primarily by taking bold steps to go above and beyond the dominant discourses and norms within their universities and policy-building communities. This article explicates why, in turn, a “surrogate academic freedom” tends to emerge as a conundrum across the post-Soviet higher education space. Copyright © 2020 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1116-1126
JournalEducational Philosophy and Theory
Issue number11
Early online dateJun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


Oleksiyenko, A. V. (2021). Is academic freedom feasible in the post-Soviet space of higher education? Educational Philosophy and Theory, 53(11), 1116-1126. doi: 10.1080/00131857.2020.1773799


  • Academic freedom
  • Higher education
  • Post-Soviet university


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