1st Edition

Freedom to Learn The threat to student academic freedom and why it needs to be reclaimed

By Bruce Macfarlane Copyright 2017
    156 Pages
    by Routledge

    156 Pages
    by Routledge

    The freedom of students to learn at university is being eroded by a performative culture that fails to respect their rights to engage and develop as autonomous adults. Instead, students are being restricted in how they learn, when they learn and what they learn by the so-called student engagement movement. Compulsory attendance registers, class contribution grading, group project work and reflective learning exercises based on expectations of self-disclosure and confession take little account of the rights of students or individual differences between them. This new hidden university curriculum is intolerant of students who may prefer to learn informally, are reticent, shy, or simply value their privacy. Three forms of student performativity have arisen - bodily, participative and emotional – which threaten the freedom to learn.

    Key themes include:

    • A re-imagining of student academic freedom
    • The democratic student experience
    • Challenging assumptions of the student engagement movement
    • An examination of university policies and practices

    Freedom to Learn offers a radically new perspective on academic freedom from a student rights standpoint. It analyzes the effects of performative expectations on students drawing on the distinction between negative and positive rights to re-frame student academic freedom. It argues that students need to be thought of as scholars with rights and that the phrase ‘student-centred’ learning needs to be reclaimed to reflect its original intention to allow students to develop as persons. Student rights – to non-indoctrination, reticence, in choosing how to learn, and in being treated like an adult – ought to be central to this process in fostering a democratic rather authoritarian culture of learning and teaching at university.

    Written for an international readership, this book will be of great interest to anyone involved in higher education, policy and practice drawing on a wide range of historical and contemporary literature related to sociology, philosophy and higher education studies.

    1. The hidden curriculum  2. Student rights  3. A paradox  4. The performative turn  5. Participative performativity   6. Bodily performativity  7. Emotional performativity  8. Reclaiming student-centred


    Bruce Macfarlane is Professor of Higher Education at the University of Southampton, UK.

    "This is a powerful book, for both the higher education theorist and the university practitioner. The ideas provide a refreshingly alternative perspective on some common and dominant concepts that have guided teaching and learning for the last 30 years or so [… ] Macfarlane’s book spoke to my feelings of unease about my practice and the difficulties of being a university teacher." - Tony Harland, Higher Education (Springer)


    "Refreshingly, the book avoids the pitfalls of generalisation by providing historical examples from Western and non-Western contexts, making the text equally releveant in any country with a massified higher education system [...] The book was written by and targeted at academics, but I would argue that the narrative provided is useful to students and I don't think I took away any less from it by being a student.  In fact, the book provided me with a certain amount of previously undiscovered self awareness of my own learning style." - Luice S. Dvorakova, University of Queensland, Australia


    "My guess is that this book will make more that a few people in education feel a little uncomfortable.  And so it should.  The book challenges us to consider a number of things we seem to be taking for granted." -John Lea, Association of Colleges, UK