New research confirms that scores of top-ranked Western universities discriminate against students and professors who do not conform to leftist ideologies.
It’s no secret that when Christian students enter secular university, they step into a world that seems to lean distinctly left.
I experienced this world firsthand while studying science at a liberal Canadian university. There, I strolled through hallways papered with leftist-approved (but blatantly unbiblical) messages. I listened to lecturers criticize “terrible right-wing arguments” about issues like abortion. I read advertisements boasting headlines too blasphemous to repeat. Everywhere I looked, I saw evidence of a culture founded on secular humanism, the worldview which declares—to quote one of my professors, “God did not create humans; humans created God.”1
When I later traveled 360° around the world interviewing Christian students at secular universities, I found the pattern of leftist campuses repeating itself. Whether the climate of moral relativism on Australian universities, the atmosphere of hostility which an art student described in Paris, or the swirl of communist recruiters whom students encounter in Greece, leftism rules the schools of multiple countries. And it’s not just hearsay. A new study has unveiled quantitative evidence for leftist academic discrimination in three western nations.
Dr. Eric Kauffman, Professor of Politics at the University of London, compiled survey data from over 3,000 professors,2 graduate, or doctoral students at American, British, and Canadian universities.3 Overall, Dr. Kauffman found that “a significant portion of academics discriminate against conservatives in hiring, promotion, grants, and publications.”4
His report, Academic Freedom in Crisis: Punishment, Political Discrimination, and Self-Censorship, published by the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology, revealed that across all three countries surveyed,
- Between 60–80% of right-wing academics in social sciences and humanities (SSH) reported facing “a hostile climate for their beliefs.”5
- Among SSH academics, 72–83% reported voting left, Liberal, or Green in elections between 2016–2019.
- Sixty-two percent of strongly right-wing master’s and PhD students agreed with the statement, “My political views wouldn’t fit academia.”6
- Discrimination seemed especially prevalent among younger academics, with about one in three doctoral students openly admitting that they would discriminate against right-leaning grant promotions. Among North American doctoral students, 24% disclosed that they would rate a right-leaning paper lower.
- Compared to academics aged 55–64, millennial scholars are two-to-four times less tolerant towards conservatives.7
For Canadian universities alone, Dr. Kauffman documented the following trends:
- While only 4% of Canadian universities consider themselves right-wing, 73% self-identify as left-wing.8
- Although 36% of the Canadian public reported voting conservative in the 2019 national election, only 7% of Canadian academics did the same.9
- More than half of Canadian academics expressed that they would not be comfortable eating lunch with a colleague who opposed transgendered individuals’ having access to women’s shelters.10
- Over half of right-leaning Canadian SSH academics reported censoring their own views during teaching or research, compared to around one-quarter of their left-leaning counterparts.11
Surviving a Hostile Environment
These and other findings of this thorough research reveal that, overall, North American and British universities tend to be unapologetically intolerant towards those who resist conforming to leftist ideology. How can biblically grounded churches, families, and ministries prepare Christian students to navigate such environments? Based on my own university experiences, empirical research findings, and insights from Christian students worldwide, I suggest the answer involves helping students build three foundations:12
- Spiritual foundations—disciple students to develop an active relationship with God founded on a solid biblical worldview. This requires mentoring youth to understand the Bible, to make their faith their own, and to uphold the authority of God’s Word without compromise.
- Intellectual foundations—equip students with apologetics knowledge and critical thinking skills for defending their biblical worldview.
- Interpersonal foundations—support students with an intergenerational network involving godly family, friends, and mentors.
With firm foundations beneath them and strong support behind them, Christians will be far better prepared to walk into a world where everything seems to lean left—and to emerge standing tall.
- Certainly, not all left-leaning individuals are secular humanists, or vice versa. Many leftist ideologies, however, clearly stem from a worldview founded on the secular idea that moral truth rests in the minds of humans rather than in the character of God. Correspondingly, when the American Humanist Association asked its members to anonymously reveal how they voted in the 2016 US presidential election, 87% of respondents reported voting Democratic. (Merrill Miller, “Here’s How Humanists Voted: Survey Results from the American Humanist Association,” American Humanist Association, December 2, 2016, https://thehumanist.com/commentary/poll-results-post-title.)
- Most of the professors surveyed were currently working at universities, although some of the UK data included surveys from former (usually retired) professors as well.
- Eric Kauffman, “Academic Freedom in Crisis: Punishment, Political Discrimination, and Self-Censorship,” Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology, March 1, 2021, https://cspicenter.org/reports/academicfreedom/.
- Kauffman, “Academic Freedom,” Executive Summary.
- Kauffman, “Academic Freedom,” 109 (Figure 83).
- Kauffman, “Academic Freedom,” 92 (Figure 66).
- As measured by academics’ willingness to support the beliefs-based firing of a conservative scholar.
- The numbers are very similar in America, with 73% identifying as left-wing and 5% identifying as right-wing.
- The skew is even stronger in America, with 4% of academics voting republican in 2016 compared to 46% of the public.
- In America, 71% of academics reported they would be uncomfortable or unsure of eating lunch with such a colleague.
- Self-censorship among SSH academics was highest in the American sample, with 70% reporting self-censoring.
- Practical tactics, tips, and tools for helping students build and maintain these three foundations will be available in my upcoming survival guidebook for Christian students at secular university.