A new free speech-focused college has been awarded full university status after its initial launch two years ago. 

The University of Austin (UATX), founded by former New York Times writer Bari Weiss, is a new university with a mission guaranteeing “intellectual freedom” and protecting against “discrimination and indoctrination.” The new school also says it will “serve as a model for other institutions of higher education.” 

Weiss co-founded the school with historian Niall Ferguson, technology entrepreneur Joe Lonsdale, and Pano Kanelos, who serves as the university president.

The Dallas Express reported that the university has opened its applications for the 100-member inaugural freshman class of Fall 2024. All inaugural freshmen will be awarded full-tuition scholarships. 

“It is only fitting then that we invest in the next generation of builders, innovators, and creators, who deserve an education steeped in academic freedom and oriented towards the pursuit of wisdom,” said Kanelos, per The Dallas Express.

While their campus in Austin was under construction, the college hosted summer classes in Dallas. Its summer program was called “The Forbidden Courses.” Courses titled “Critical Thinking and Freedom of Expression,” “Street Epistemology,” and “How to Be a Liberal in an Illiberal Age” were options for students’ enrichment. 

According to UATX’s website, students will start with a two-year liberal arts education through the Intellectual Foundations Program. Freshmen and sophomores will take part in small discussion-based seminars and will “learn to advance and solve complex problems.” 

During students’ junior and senior years, they will participate in a research-focused Junior Fellowship, developing specialized knowledge in one or more of UATX’s academic centers.

Throughout students’ careers at the university, they will participate in an “ambitious Polaris Project to build, create, or discover something that meets a pressing human need, providing values to others.” Students can choose projects that may be scholarly, scientific, technical, educational, entrepreneurial, or artistic. 

According to The Dallas Express, UATX plans to expand its talent network of leaders in business, politics, technology, and other industries willing to mentor and hire students at the university. 

The new college will serve as an alternative option for higher education, as many universities come under fire for their lack of free speech. 

In September, Texas Scorecard reported on free speech rankings among colleges nationwide. The rankings showed that Texas A&M University was among the top free speech-friendly universities in the country, while the University of Texas at Austin (UT) was ranked among the lowest. The University of North Texas scored higher than UT but still ranked below the national average.

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.