Two sides of the same coin: Social representations of academic freedom in higher education in Brazil

Bruno Eduardo Slongo Garcia, Pedro Chapaval Pimentel, Jane Mendes Ferreira


In this article, we analyze how academic freedom is socially represented by professors in their teaching activities. To achieve this objective, we run twenty interviews with professors from Applied Social Sciences courses both in public (UNIPUB) and private (CENU) organizations of higher education in Brazil, for which fictitious names were given. Our study is grounded on the Theory of Social Representations and the four dimensions of academic freedom, namely: teaching, learning, researching, and disseminating knowledge. Our findings presented both convergence and divergences regarding the two institutions. Both institutions centered freedom on the professor, but they diverged as to the presence of other individuals in the teaching and learning process and, therefore, in the representation of academic freedom. Also, dimensions such as research and dissemination were quite different between the organizations, while at CENU the research is an activity aimed at class planning, and the dissemination is a distant activity, at UNIPUB there are scientific and critical aspects regarding both. In general, freedom is represented and driven by guidelines that can provoke conflicts at CENU, while in UNIPUB the freedom to act is sometimes used inappropriately.


academic freedom; social representations; public education; private education; Brazil


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Copyright (c) 2021 Bruno Eduardo Slongo Garcia, Pedro Chapaval Pimentel, Jane Mendes Ferreira

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