Academic freedom at Waterloo

Universities and university scholars play a special social role in the search for truth and the advancement of knowledge. In order to perform this role, they require academic freedom. 

What you need to know

  • Academic freedom is a cluster of related freedoms essential to the scholarly mission of the University. 

    • Scholars must be free to decide on lines of inquiry; to choose research topics and methodologies; to create; to curate; to teach; to learn; to disseminate their scholarship and creations; to criticize the institution; and to express their views extramurally. Further, they must be free from institutional censorship, including censorship of library collections.

    • Academic Freedom is only one of a number of core values that universities have to balance.

  • Academic freedom isn’t freedom of expression (though they’re related). It’s a distinctive set of freedoms enjoyed by scholarly personnel and protected by tenure or its equivalent (e.g., continuing status for lecturers).

    • Waterloo is unusual in that it extends academic freedom to the whole university community, recognizing that not only faculty perform the scholarly work of the institution. That said, the policy that covers this doesn't afford everyone the same robust individual protections as FAUW’s Memorandum of Agreement with UW does for faculty.
  • Academic freedom comes with responsibilities. You have a duty to use academic freedom in a manner consistent with the scholarly obligation to base research on an honest search for truth; your scholarship (including teaching) should meet ethical and professional standards; and you must not misrepresent your expertise, nor claim to represent the University.

Where to find information

Academic freedom at Waterloo

Key national and international statements


Who to talk to

  • The Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee (AF&T), if you are concerned that your academic freedom has been or might be violated. AF&T is available to all instructors at Waterloo.

  • Your Council representative, to report a more systemic concern to FAUW.

FAUW's advice

  • Academic freedom is an important and distinctive freedom that needs to be defended. We defend it best by learning about it and being able to effectively communicate to our colleagues and the public its importance and complexity. Start by reading section 6 of the Memorandum of Agreement.

Further reading