On 24 April 2024, the second Vice-Chancellor’s Dialogues event grappled with the question: 'Is Democracy Dying?' The event is part of a series of dialogues about some of the most difficult issues of our time.

2024 is the year of elections. A record number of elections will take place, with half the adult population of the world – some two billion people – having the chance to vote. Is this a milestone to be celebrated in our democratic history or are we at a crossroads where the fate of liberal democracy hangs in the balance?

Against a backdrop of polarising populist movements, the erosion of trust in traditional institutions and a decline of democratic norms, we asked: is democracy dying? Is the election of populists an expression of democracy or a breakdown of democracy? How resilient are our democratic institutions in the face of unprecedented challenges? Is the tension between liberal and democracy ultimately too great to resolve?

We addressed these questions in our second Vice-Chancellor’s Dialogues, hosted by Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Prentice on 24 April 2024.

Our speakers

  • David Goodhart, founding editor of Prospect magazine and Head of the Demography, Immigration and Integration unit at the think tank Policy Exchange. He is the author of The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics.
  • Nabila Ramdani, award-winning journalist, broadcaster and academic. She is the author of Fixing France: How to Repair a Broken Republic.
  • Helen Thompson, Professor of Political Economy at the University. She is author of Disorder: Hard Times in the 21st Century.

The discussion was chaired by Roger Mosey, Master of Selwyn College and former Editorial Director of the BBC.

The Vice-Chancellor’s Dialogues

There are two purposes to these events. The first is to establish whether there is any common ground between people who may seem to be far apart. If we are to make progress in legislation or in understanding the world we live in, we need to identify where we agree as well as where we disagree. The second is to ensure discussions involve the widest range of viewpoints – that nothing, within the law, is taboo and that freedom of speech and of thought, and of academic debate, is upheld.

Watch our first event on whether assisted dying is compassionate, or dangerous for society >