Universities are increasingly accused of bias. According to critics, high concentrations of liberals entail groupthink and discrimination against conservatives. Announcing the establishment of the University of Austin, founders cited damning statistics. Nearly a quarter of American social science and humanities academics supportdismissing colleagues who have unorthodox views in areas such as immigration or gender differences. Four out of five American PhD students are willing to discriminateagainst right-wing scholars.
These statistics are important, but there are countervailing trends; most academics remain tolerant and many conservatives relish working in the sector. Moreover, conditions differ sharply across institutions and faculties; left-wing authoritarianism may be embedded within certain environments, yet others are models of tolerance. Debates which exchange statistics are often fruitless, opponents talking around each other. But deeper trends are elucidative. In recent decades, three developments have increased pressures for bias within universities.
Firstly, there is the rise of the education cleavage. As Western societies have embraced mass higher education, access to education increasingly shapes politics. Education predicts liberal attitudes on issues such as immigration, Brexit and the death penalty, those with less education tending to adopt conservative positions. There is a crucial implication for universities. Because universities provide education, they gather individuals who tend to have liberal views. Exceptions always exist, yet the education-liberalism nexus implies that liberalism will predominate; most academics have higher degrees and students work towards degrees.