On August 3rd, 2020 the Policy Exchange Report, ‘Academic Freedom in the UK‘ was published and it has gone on to receive cross-party support. The report also met with approval across the range broadsheet newspapers including the Times, The Guardian (half-heartedly) and the Daily Telegraph.
The report notes that there has been an expansion of academia and an increase in diversity in terms of race and gender but goes on to note that there has been a reduction in cognitive diversity particularly in social sciences and the humanities. In particular figures on the left/progressive have come to dominate that narrative.
Although no-platforming is rare the report notes the chilling effect of a ‘progressive orthodoxy’ on academics who choose to promote a contrary view. For example, one in three academics said that they would discriminate against someone who voted leave in the 2016 referendum. The report showed that academics do not discriminate more than other educated professionals and academics on the right were also prepared to discriminate but there are much fewer of them.
There are also social pressures, one third of right leaning academics, rising to one half in social science and humanities departments reported that they had to self censor because of concerns for their careers. It is in the interests of nobody for right-leaning academics to have to self censor and conceal their views in order to win project grants and get published. I say this as someone who is left-leaning and who up until the time of Jeremy Corbyn was a card carrying member of the Labour Party. We all need to hear voices we disagree with, because that can either sharpen our own arguments or even cause us to reconsider our own beliefs.
However, the part of the report that interested me the most, glossed over by most commentators, compared male and female academics and their willingness to discriminate against a job application from a candidate with different political beliefs. If you look at the figure below taken from the Policy Exchange report it appears they are twice as likely to as their male colleagues to discriminate against someone holding different political beliefs – in this case supporting Leave.
You have to approach this with some caution; analysing a complex multivariate problem according to one variable, in this case gender, can easily lead you to the wrong conclusions. It may be that academics in SSH are more likely to discriminate and because women predominate in those subject areas it appears that they are more likely to discriminate. We simply don’t know, but it is an issue that needs exploring further.
Elsewhere in the report (page 47) there is more bad news for those feminists who harbour a deep belief in the moral superiority of women. The report quotes from academic study published by Peter Riach and Judith Rich An Experimental Investigation of Sexual Discrimination in Hiring in the English Labour Market that was published in the Journal – Advances in Economic Analysis and Policy. Identical resumés were constucted for imaginary male and female job applications to areas of work considered male dominated such as engineering, female dominated such as secretary and also areas with no obvious gender dominance. They found that applications from female candidates were twice as likely to be rejected in male dominated areas but in female dominated areas applications from male candidates were five times more likely to be rejected! Most disturbing of all was the data from areas normally considered ‘mixed occupations’ such as trainee accountant, the discrimination against male candidates with identical CVs continued at about the same level as ‘female dominated’ professions. This disturbing and has been barely remarked on by gender warriors in the media. Will anyone sit up and take note – I doubt it.