The composite theory: An African contribution to the academic freedom discourse

Authors Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua, Klaus D Beiter, Terence Karran

ISSN: 1996-2126
Affiliations: Marie Curie International Incoming Fellow at University of Lincoln, UK; Marie Curie Intra-European Fellow at University of Lincoln, UK; Professor in Higher Education, University of Lincoln, UK & Docent Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Oulu, Finland
Source: South African Journal on Human Rights, Volume 31 Issue 2, 2015, p. 315 – 329


This article expounds the Composite Theory to define the parameters for the exercise of academic freedom in Africa, informed by its political, historical and cultural circumstances and expressed in the Dar es Salaam Declaration on Academic Freedom and Social Responsibility of Academics and the Kampala Declaration on Intellectual Freedom and Social Responsibility. This approach follows in the line of the Special Theory and General Theory postulated to justify the exercise and application of academic freedom in Germany and the United States of America, respectively. The Composite Theory contends that academic freedom in the African context should not only be seen in the narrow prism of protecting the rights of academics on and off the university campus. It includes a commitment to recognise and contribute to promoting the rights of other key actors in the academic freedom equation, to wit, students and the society as a fulfilment of the academic’s social responsibility. This role can be fulfilled both within and outside the university campus. Internally, academics shall respect students’ right to academic freedom and immerse knowledge-sharing in a democratic ethos. This approach will likely instil in the students respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law, which they will carry away with them from the university into life within the society. Extramurally, equipped with their knowledge, skills and experience, African academics should take advantage of their privileged positions in society to leave their ivory towers and, where necessary, solidarise with other civil society actors to promote social transformation and human emancipation. This is the guaranteed way to protect academic freedom on the campuses.