Reframing the freedom to teach

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapters

2 Citations (Scopus)


Macfarlane considers the freedom to teach in reference to the threat of criticism and censure directed at radical university teachers. It is symbolised by the cause cél√®bre often featuring McCarthyite characteristics: right-wing critics accusing left-leaning professors of a lack of patriotism and undermining the academic freedom of students. However, this understanding of the freedom to teach as a dramatic clash of political ideologies overshadows the importance of 'everyday' freedoms including the creative control of the curriculum, the exercise of academic judgement and the obligation of intellectual renewal. These pre-conditions of a freedom to teach have been eroded by the rise of compliance-based quality assurance regimes, the learnification of the teaching relationship, and the mainstreaming of teaching-only contracts as a feature of a rapidly disaggregating academic profession disconnecting university teaching from the basis of its legitimacy and rejuvenation. In common with the effects of McCarthyism, everyday freedoms erode further through self-censorship. For Macfarlane, such processes are occurring in conjunction with what he terms the 'forces of McDonalisation'. These refer to the industrialization and standardisation of university teaching as 'service delivery'; the proliferation of audit cultures and bureaucratization of quality assurance; and the casualisation of employment and tenure conditions, as they are affecting universities. In relating academic freedom to the micro-practices of the classroom, Macfarlane's chapter is insightful in that it questions whether new managerialism enables academics to satisfactorily do the job for which the university exists. Copyright © 2022 The Editors and Contributors Severally.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook on academic freedom
EditorsRichard WATERMEYER, Rille RAAPER, Mark OLSSEN
Place of PublicationCheltenham
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Limited
ISBN (Electronic)9781788975919
ISBN (Print)9781788975902, 1788975901
Publication statusPublished - 2022


Macfarlane, B. (2022). Reframing the freedom to teach. In R. Watermeyer, R. Raaper, & M. Olssen (Eds.), Handbook on academic freedom (pp. 147-159). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.


  • McCarthyism
  • McDonaldisation
  • Paradox of freedom
  • Pedagogic self-governance
  • Academic judgement
  • Industrialization
  • Service delivery
  • Bureaucratization
  • Casualisation


Dive into the research topics of 'Reframing the freedom to teach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.