Has academic freedom survived? - An interview study of the conditions for researchers
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Swedish universities are being shaken by two revolutions. One is a radical change in the way research is funded, the other is increasingly powerful emphasis on the teaching role of the universities. Since the beginning of the 1990s, university researchers in Sweden have been facing a dilemma. The financialresponsibility for research has progressively been assumed by external agencies – including research councils – and these have, to a very great extent, had little hesitation in setting their own priorities about what areas or directions research should take, and in what kinds of setting. This has been combinedwith the expansion of teaching commitments, not least in undergraduate programs, so that at the same time it has become less usual for university posts to provide scope for research. This raises questions about what kind of future the research universities can expect as organizations. This development is notrestricted to Sweden but is international.
This interview study examines what effects these radical institutional changes have had on the key figures in the system – the researchers themselves. It is a pilot study based on 17 in-depth interviews with researchers in various disciplines, different posts, active either at an ancient university (Uppsala)
or a new one (Örebro). Between May and September of 2003 interviews were carried out with ten professors, three senior lecturers, two post-doctoral fellows and two researchers on project posts, working in the humanities, social sciences, medicine and the natural sciences. They were asked about their view of the content of academic freedom, on the current prospects for its survival, on the effect of institutional structures on the content of research and on the research process as such.