Eric Barendt, Academic Freedom

Published: 20 December 2017

For centuries, academic freedom has been recognized as a fundamental right, although it was not always referred to by exactly this name. There are numerous diverging interpretations regarding the substance and the boundaries of this right; ever since people have taught others and sought answers to important questions through scholarly and scientific endeavour, it has always been a matter of debate where to draw the line demarcating the boundaries of the teacher’s or researcher’s freedom. Consensus understands academic freedom as a part and an idiosyncratic branch of freedom of speech, but there has been a degree of uncertainty regarding the nature of its divergence from its ‘parent right’. Now available in Hungarian as well, Eric Barendt’s monograph sets out to define just this, taking a detailed, in-depth look at all the significant aspects of the question.

But what exactly do we mean by academic freedom? As the author also points out, it is difficult to formulate a definition that would be sufficiently straightforward for practical use yet encompass all the important elements; after all, it is difficult to identify all the scenarios in which this fundamental right can be enforced and called upon in order to protect the individual’s freedom and it is also difficult to decide who should be entitled to exercise it. The subjects of this freedom are a specific subset of people: in general, teachers, academics and researchers are considered as holders of this right, but research assistants, librarians and the administrative managers and students of research and teaching institutions may also be covered by its protection.

Besides the subjects of this freedom, its scope is also difficult to define, as it may encompass wide-ranging protections, from the freedom of education, through the freedom of research, to speaking beyond the boundaries of an institution. In searching for answers to these questions together with the reader, Professor Barendt offers a comprehensive and detailed view of the subject, which makes this a unique and topical volume.

The academic sphere and the freedoms enjoyed by it have a significant impact on society as a whole. It is a matter that concerns us all, one that we need to deal with from time to time. This volume is the first in Hungary that treats these matters in a comprehensive but accessible way. Given the complexity of these questions and their contradictions, the Reader, whether layman or professional, needs guidance through the subject by an author who is knowledgeable about all aspects and material issues concerning academic freedom and is also able to present these in an accessible form. Internationally acclaimed researcher of the freedom of expression and mentor to later generations of researchers, Professor Eric Barendt is a perfect ‘guide’, and, as with his earlier publications, this book will not disappoint the reader.

The book is available on the publisher’s website.