A Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate. The three degrees which are considered a must have for a career in academia. Any person who knows the hard work and discipline it takes to receive a degree, will acknowledge how intense it is to gain all three. I am myself in my seventh year of university and in the second year of my doctorate. It really hasn't been the easiest, but with two more years to go, I'm determined to finish. Many people who follow the path I have chosen, are likely to aim for highly sought after post doctoral research positions and eventually become a university lecturer. Nonetheless, as little as 29.9% of PhD holders actually work in the higher education sector two years after graduating. Academia is hard, it is competitive, it takes years of extra University study. With all these years of hard work, it really makes us all question, why is it so largely left wing?
At University and as a researcher, you are told from day one to critical think. To ask questions. To think of alternative solutions. From my experience of my journey, getting this far really stands out to me as what we value as Conservatives. After my masters, I began applying to PhD programmes. Each programme had several selection rounds, as funding is competitive and doctoral training programmes wish to have only the most independent and critical thinkers. The whole academic setting is many researchers with great minds using a collaborative approach to solve the problems of today. This is exactly what a PhD trains you for, to carry out novel research into something we do not yet know the answer to. Academics may disagree on science, voice all different opinions and outcomes. But there has become no room for difference in Political opinion.
So why is freedom of speech such a problem in our Universities? Last week, Her Majesty the Queen laid out the Government's agenda for this sitting of Parliament. One notable part of that was the Government's plans to protect free speech in Universities. We have heard of many speakers being cancelled from giving a talk by Student Unions, with many being what they call 'no platformed' where no person turns up. No platforming is often seen as a way of attempting to mock the speaker, to make a point of disagreement. Many would just say it's cowardly. The free speech issue stems way beyond guests and speakers at a Student Union. There's colleagues out there who feel if they were to express a slightly conservative view or something in support of Brexit, the response would be hostile. As a researcher, shouldn't this be something of debate? As academics are part of world-leading research here in the UK, it's interesting that they are unable to listen to an alternative political opinion. I do in many ways, see people with different political views wishing similar outcomes, just a different way of achieving that. It's like all things we do in life, there's always more than one way. We are faced with a problem where some of the greatest minds can't engage in a political discussion which may conflict with their beliefs. Free speech is in danger until the left begin to acknowledge they don't know what's best and why the working class are leaving them.
I was fortunate enough to feature in the Conservative Party's election broadcast on TV this year, which happened to be brought up by my colleagues in a meeting. What strikes me was the administrative staff were excited for me, but the academic staff faces were frozen with shock. I know staff at the University in non-academic roles feel their political opinions may be also unwelcome. Take Brexit for example, there were remain supporters who were largely left wing and in favour for a second referendum, calling Brexiteers racist. Reality was it has nothing to do with race, the majority simply did not want to be part of a political union they did not feel was working for the country. Those in the University bubble had no idea what it was like for working class communities who saw their jobs be taken by a non-Brit as free movement enabled this. It isn't racist for our communities to wish for the jobs in their area, to go to the people of Britain. I go to a North East University, the non-academic staff families this impacts are likely to be concerned about jobs, as were my own. We truly are living in times where Professors, who claim to be for equality, are unable to listen to the people they claim to be in support of. While many on the left think the British public are upset about curtains and wallpaper. If they listened to what others are saying, instead of lecturing Brits on what they think we need, maybe their agenda would be more credible. What free speech and honest political debate would point out, is many just simply want to progress.
The Conservative Party has come a long way in gaining support of the working class, would the University educated not wish to know why?