Reclaiming democratic values in the future university

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review


The changing role and interpretation of values within higher education and its curriculum needs to be understood by reference to a series of (re)appropriations connected with the successive influences of the church, the state and, more latterly, the market. This essay explores the role played by religious, democratic, performative and transformative values and argues that the university has become increasingly self-conscious in endorsing values of positionality that have largely displaced values for learning. This shifting meta-narrative poses a threat to academic freedom on campus by validating contemporary normative values, such as global citizenship, social justice and sustainable development, as opposed to providing students with the learning environment they need to scrutinise knowledge claims critically. The future university needs to reclaim the centrality of democratic values as a means of nurturing and protecting student academic freedom and maintaining a genuinely ‘higher’ education in which students can learn in peace. Copyright © 2020 Bruce Macfarlane.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-113
JournalPhilosophy and Theory in Higher Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019


Macfarlane, B. (2019). Reclaiming democratic values in the future university. Philosophy and Theory in Higher Education, 1(3), 97-113.


  • Values
  • Curriculum
  • Positionality
  • Academic freedom
  • Liberal education


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