MEP defends South West universities against ‘challenge to academic freedom’

Molly has made clear she will stand by universities in the South West that refuse to respond to the request made by Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris, asking them for details of names of those ‘teaching European Affairs, with particular reference to Brexit’. The letter also asks for ‘the syllabus and links to the online lectures which relate to this area’.

As a former academic and university lecturer herself, Dr Scott Cato has expressed deep concern at the request. She said:

“We can only surmise the intent of this alarming request, due to the letter’s lack of information about why this material is sought. However, it is deeply concerning that university teaching now appears to be subject to government monitoring in a way that challenges academic freedom. I support wholeheartedly any university in the South West that refuses to pass on such information to the government.

“Does Take Back Control mean that only certain ‘acceptable’ messages are now to be taught in our universities? Or that training students to think independently and critically is a threat to government? The precedents from history are clear: authoritarian governments are threatened by free thinking while a democratic society depends on the freedom of thought of young people and those who teach them.” 

Molly Scott Cato draws parallels with her request for the government to release at least 50 studies into the impacts of Brexit. She is threatening court action if the government fail to release the studies by this Friday. She said:

“The failure to release studies that could help business, civil society and the general public have a clearer understanding of the impacts of Brexit is a similar affront to democracy. How can our democratic representatives make decisions in our interests when the government is withholding vital information?

“All this smacks of a government that is running scared; realising that leaving the EU will be a disaster for society and for our economy and keen to keep control of the narrative around Brexit.”