This week the results of the Australian Student Experience Survey were published – and it’s an exercise that has all sorts of similarities with the UK’s National Student Survey (even if I am staring longingly on decent “reasons why students might be thinking about dropping out” data).
As is set to be the case here, there’s material in there at the behest of culture warrior ministers on free speech – although in Australia there are (helpfully) three questions that cover off both ends of the freedom of expression see-saw as follows:
- I am free to express my views at [institution name]
- Academics are free to express their views at [institution name]
- I am free from discrimination, harm or hatred at [institution name]
This year the good news is that a majority of higher education students were positive about freedom of expression at their institution. 87 percent of undergraduates rated overall freedom of expression at their institution positively.
Underpinning that, 77 percent agreed they were free to express their views at their institution, 81 percent agreed they were free from discrimination, harm or hatred at their institution, and 76 percent agreed that academics at their institution were free to express their views.
Fascinatingly, there is a significant looking age split. Younger students were more likely to rate aspects of freedom of expression positively than older students, with 79 percent of undergrads under 25 agreeing they were free to express their views on campus, compared with 66 percent of those aged 40 and over.
And the upshot? Barely a word of coverage in the Australian news media about free speech on campus. Maybe all the sector needed all along was a decent prevalence survey.