Academic Declaration of Independence

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for academic scholars to openly defy the generous patrons of their arts and sciences, it is necessary for our own integrity that we declare the causes of our dissent. 

We hold these aims to be self-evident, that all persons have an equal right to access truth, that the pursuit of knowledge is necessary to secure a decent standard of living, and that a free society can only exist based on truth. To secure these goods, members of higher education institutions (hence forth the academy) depend upon the support of the enlightened wealthiest classes and our governments. When any group or government becomes destructive of these ends through direct or indirect manipulation of the academy to the detriment of the public good, to the extent of hindering the pursuit of knowledge, eroding the future of our arts and sciences, and threatening every citizens’ liberty by supressing truth and blocking social mobility, it is the right and responsibility of the academy to openly question and defy our benefactors.

Such has been the suffering and demands placed on the academy by Her Majesty’s government.

Her government is effectively dictating academy membership by forcing universities to hire, retain and promote staff based on government imposed fiscal pressures (the REF) rather than on overall scholarly contribution to the academy.

Her government has required the academy to prostrate itself and compromise its integrity by compelling it's members to write insincere “impact statements” when requesting support, thus attempting to divert academics from the unfettered pursuit of knowledge to the end of validating partisan political goals.

Her government has cut all funding for teaching of non-STEM subjects effectively pressuring universities to eliminate and retain disciplines on fiscal rather than academic grounds, thus effectively restricting access to the history, knowledge and language of power to the privileged upper classes.

Her government has imposed a system requiring excessive student fees suddenly and without proper planning denying equal access for qualified students and making responsible long term decision making about the fiscal management of universities impossible.

Her government imposes excessive state regulations in the name of standards that are effectively stifling teaching innovation under the guise of maintaining quality and equality of degrees across the university sector thus impinging on the academy’s freedom to educate the next generation of our respective discipline’s academy members.  

Much of this government attack on the academy is a part of an ideological and economically motivated attack on liberty, equality and freedom being waged by the wealthiest of the priviledged upper classes who believe that no one should arise above their station

This culture of profiteering is working to corrupt the senior management of our universities through outrageous salaries as a reward for dutifully imposing her majesties government’s destructive anti-scholarly policies. If these managers can earn the same in industry then public charities like universities should not be keeping them from helping the private economy in these dire times.

Profiteers have succeeded in diverting public research money to subsidize for profit industry research and development through ring fencing co-funded industry/university training schemes.

Profiteers are demanding that universities make up for under-funded school systems, diverting resources from discovery and higher education, to remedial training in transferable skills. This effectively converts higher education from supporting social and economic mobility to maintaining servitude to the wealthiest leaders of industry by setting employability as the highest aspirtion.

These attacks on our academic and public freedom and the resulting damage they will cause to the academy’s ability to pursue the truth and produce the discoveries necessary for the long term public good require strong response.  

The British academy should unite across the university sector and refuse to participate in the REF by not submitting any returns or paperwork, refuse to assess or participate in research council impact statements by boycotting those sections of grant applications and refusing to provide reviews based on impact, ignore HEFCE and QAA regulations and rules imposed on their teaching and degree programs, and the people of Britain should choose to support their young people in the hopeful pursuit of knowledge instead of condemning them to training for a lifetime of indefinite servitude punctuated by periods of unemployment.

As it does not appear to be in the nature of the British academy to defy their class system or their government pay masters, even in light of these egregious assaults on academic freedom and threat of destruction of all they say they should be working for, I have  left for the United States, where although rumours indicate an academy moving in similar direction, a revolutionary tradition of standing up for truth, the public good, and academic freedom may yet prevail.


  1. If only you were a biologist with a country, you could set up Academia properly!

    I think you should remove the link to the Prince Charles article, though. It looks like terrible journalism. From the quoted material (and why not quote the juicy bits?), he never (as the headline suggests) expressed an issue with "people rising above their station". He said "Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far above their capabilities?" and "It is a consequence of a child-centered education system which tells people they can become pop stars, high court judges or brilliant TV presenters or infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting the necessary work or having the natural ability".

    Surely, expecting people to rise on the basis of hard work, capability and natural ability is the opposite of rising due to their station? Indeed, one could argue that some of the current issues in Higher Education are due to not encouraging those without "the necessary work or having the natural ability" to explore alternative options - a degree is not for everyone and not everyone should need one to succeed. It's not a message for children but, at some point in life, realism has to kick in.

  2. PS. You should post a link to the original Declaration of Independence so that us non-Americans can better admire the parallels!

  3. PPS. We British also have a long tradition of standing up for truth, the public good, and academic freedom. I think you really mean the American revolutionary tradition of "fighting the power", which we're not so good at. (Unless it's foreign power, of course! :op)

  4. On re-reading the Declaration for this post 2 things struck me. One was how direct and ambiguous it is. it pulled no punches, hence the over all tone. The second was how British it was that the founding fathers felt the need to give the King formal written notice of the rebellion. The most important point for STEM scientists to fully understand (the humanities get it) is that ALL governments, big business and the powerful in general are natural enemies of discovery. Discovery changes the game that put these people in power and as human beings they can not help but feel threatened. They are not our friends, they are necessary and sometimes useful allies with contrary interests that we need to careful of getting to close to. At his time in history, we are in real danger of giving away the whole store to them.


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