Academia and The Left: Inherently Linked? | University of Birmingham

Academia and The Left: Inherently Linked?

Alex Cirant-Taljaard explores why academia could be argued to possess a left-wing bias

There is a well-known and oft spouted cliché about teachers and academics, particularly those of British universities, being socialist sleeper agents whose careers are committed solely to indoctrinating as many young and impressionable minds as they can. Hardly a year goes by without a newspaper lamenting the rampant leftness of academia. But now, there is clear, concrete evidence by way of the Adam Smith Institute showing that there is indeed considerable bias within academic circles. Huzzah! Hopefully now something will be done about these evil snowflakes polluting the minds of the innocents with disgusting liberal values. Obviously, this is nonsense, as any university student can attest to. So why is it that we keep hearing this same story time and time again?

Academia and professions of an educational variety are composed mainly of Labour supporting people; the evidence used by the ASI is that only 11% of academics support the Conservative party, whereas Labour is supported by 46%. But simply looking at the party preference is an extreme oversimplification, and assumes that all those who are Labour supporters are left wing ideologues. I spoke to University of Birmingham lecturer Peter Kerr, who said that in, in the politics department ‘you’ll find a plurality of very divergent interpretations and views from a variety of different perspectives.’ This is because every political party in the UK is an incredibly broad church, with many different viewpoints represented.

If there’s one thing which makes the university environment so much fun, surely it’s the amount of very lively debates it exposes us to

Dr. Kerr further argued that ‘the majority of the academic profession share a similar type of ethical outlook’ and ‘want the knowledge we produce to be used in as objective a way as possible.’ To say that academics are purposefully skewing their studies and data in favour of preconceived bias is doing them a great disservice. The rigorous and complex process of research, which requires concrete evidence to back one’s claims, would not allow for one to sneak in any sort of bias, and academics would likely be highly critical of studies produced with clear bias. Even at the level of university essay writing, students must consider a range of ideologies and research to obtain high level grades. While we are never discouraged from having an opinion, we are always encouraged to challenge our preconceptions and remain open to different possible viewpoints. As Dr Kerr pointed out to me, ‘if there’s one thing which makes the university environment so much fun, surely it’s the amount of very lively debates it exposes us to.’

If this is the case, then why is it that we are always told to be wary of a left-wing take over in our schools and universities. Dr. Kerr explained to me what he thought could be the more insidious reason for the wholesale labelling of academics, that ‘it may be in the interests of certain politicians to ‘politicise’ the academic profession in such a way as to undermine the knowledge they produce.’ It isn’t just academia that is framed in this way either, with medicine and coal mining being other areas historically politicised in order to undermine the positions of professionals. The reason this is being done in academia is because, as Dr. Kerr states, ‘dismissing academia as ‘left-wing’ is one way of mobilising citizens to reject some of the important knowledge on issues such as climate change, the impact of poverty.’

Ultimately, this witch-hunt against academics will only serve to damage the education provided at our universities. Many of those reporting that our schools are overrun with looney lefties have fundamentally misunderstood the nature of academia, and because academics often arrive at conclusions disliked by the establishment, they seek to discredit them. But if anyone is guilty of trying to poison our minds and subvert knowledge, it is those who are demonising the academic profession.

2nd Year Social Policy and Political Science student, Olympic pole-vaulting hopeful and massive liar (@alexjtaljaard)


14th March 2017 at 9:00 am

Images from

Gavin Williams