Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Karen Mullan MLA said today that academic freedom must be protected.
Responding to reports that a Tory MP had written to all universities, including those in the north, to request information regarding teaching on Brexit including details of lecturers and syllabuses, she said:
“This is a most concerning development and an unjustifiable abuse of position. Regardless of the reason, the disconcerting undertones cannot be discounted.
“Universities equip individuals with information and the ability to critically understand. Fundamentally they are places where the pursuit of knowledge and free-thinking are encouraged. Academic freedom and freedom of enquiry/research are fundamental values, which must be protected.
“Freedom of the Arts and Science are protected under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights based upon the right to freedom of thought and expression. Curtailment due to unjustified oversight is unthinkable.
“Brexit has had, and will continue to have, serious and negative implications for our universities and research sector. Research programmes in particular rely upon the ability to collaborate and attract staff and students from across the EU and further afield.
“This is already being impacted upon, with surveys showing many EU staff considering leaving and anecdotal evidence that EU partners are less likely to partner with institutions here.
“The ability to inform, discuss and evaluate all of the reasons for, and consequences of, Brexit is vital to understanding and to planning for the future.
“Our universities must continue to be places which open minds and build links across the world, where freedom of thought and expression are upheld.”