Academic Freedom Law and Legal Definition

Academic freedom means the liberty of schools or public officials to teach, pursue, and discuss knowledge without restriction or interference. Academic freedom refers to the freedom of university professors and the university administrators to function autonomously, without interference from the government. It also refers to the freedom of individual teachers to not suffer interference by the administrators of the university. These two freedoms can come into conflict. The academic institution enjoys a position of supremacy in addressing curriculum content. Academic freedom does not license uncontrolled expression which is detrimental to the institution's proper functioning. It helps the teachers and students to express their ideas in school without religious or political or institutional restrictions. This is an indispensable characteristic of an institution of higher education.

“Academic freedom as the protection of open communication in the processes of teaching does not restrict the public authority to control the educational program and the place where it occurs. Such schools operating at such times and places with such curricula as the elected representatives of the people shall determine will exist; but involuntary restrictions on the individual liberty of teachers and students to communicate, directly and indirectly, where such open expression is consistent with the attained level of educational development, are matters of constitutional concern.”[ Cary v. Board of Education, 427 F. Supp. 945 (D. Colo. 1977)].