Joanna Williams

Dr Joanna Williams is an author and commentator. She is the education editor of Spiked and was recently profiled in the Times Higher Education.

Joanna is the author of Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) which she talks about here and Consuming Higher Education Why Learning Can’t Be Bought (Bloomsbury, 2012). She co-edited and contributed to Why Academic Freedom Matters (Civitas, 2016).


Joanna writes and speaks about academic freedom, higher education, schools, gender, feminism, children and families. Her writing has been published everywhere from The Times Higher Education to Early Years Educator; from the Telegraph to the Erotic Review.

Joanna is currently working on a new book, a critique of current trends in feminism, to be published Autumn 2017: Women Versus Feminism, Why We All Need Liberating From the Gender Wars.

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Latest articles

Spiked, Girls’ Literature: There’s no such thing

Spiked, Jess Phillips: An establishment feminist

Open Democracy, The ‘decolonise the curriculum’ movement re-racialises knowledge

The Spectator, The post-fact world suits feminism just fine

Spiked, Let’s abandon sex education

Spiked, Students’ unions: putting a radical gloss on moralising

The Spectator, The pocket money gap is an alternative fact


In the news

BBC, Cardiff Metropolitan Uni bans ‘gender stereotype’ words

Daily Telegraph, University bans phrases such as ‘right-hand man’ and ‘gentleman’s agreement’

The Morning Star, Disenfranchising those who voted wrong

Daily Telegraph, Cecil Rhodes Effect

Financial Times, Milo Yiannopoulos barred from addressing UK school

The Times, Foreign Office attacked for new ‘British Only’ rules for researchers

Washington Examiner, Young Women Experiencing Higher Rates of Mental Illness

France CultureUne génération d’étudiants à la recherche d’hyper-protection


Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity


Roger Scruton: an excoriating critique of the intellectual conformism of the academy today. Williams shows how important historically academic freedom has been to the pursuit of knowledge, and examines the baleful consequences of the contemporary assault on truth and objectivity.

Greg Lukianoff: essential reading for anyone who cares about academic freedom, wants to better understand the threats to it, and how to fight back.

Frank Furedi:  a compelling account of why academic freedom is in trouble. A powerful but nuanced study of the conformist campus.

Wendy Kaminer: a sophisticated history and analysis of the rise and recent fall of academic freedom. Joanna Williams offers an accessible, scholarly account of the assault on reason and free inquiry by identity politics and the denigration of knowledge.

Academic freedom is increasingly being threatened by a stifling culture of conformity in higher education that is restricting individual academics, the freedom of academic thought and the progress of knowledge – the very foundations upon which academia and universities are built.

Once, scholars demanded academic freedom to critique existing knowledge and to pursue new truths. Today, while fondness for the rhetoric of academic freedom remains, it is increasingly criticised as an outdated and elitist concept by students and lecturers alike and called into question by a number of political and intellectual trends such as feminism, critical theory and identity politics.

This provocative and compelling book traces the demise of academic freedom within the context of changing ideas about the purpose of the university and the nature of knowledge. The book argues that a challenge to this culture of conformity and censorship and a defence of academic free speech are needed for critique to be possible and for the intellectual project of evaluating existing knowledge and proposing new knowledge to be meaningful. This book is that challenge and a passionate call to arms for the power of academic thought today.

Buy the book

Press coverage