I work in a Public University as IT technical assistant. Today I received a Christmas card with this text inside of it:
“The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered.” (Jean Piaget)
I think these are main reasons for using, developing and promoting libre software in academic environments. It may sound a paradox but I think that the freedom for modifying the software and create and distribute derived works fosters creation and innovation: less effort is wasted on writing from scratch (reinventing the wheel), more effort can be invested in creating new things or improving the existing ones. In addition to this, the availability of the source code of libre software allows anybody to inspect what is the program doing, and so, verify and audit it. So libre software promotes critical minds.
Richard Stallman explains these things very well, in my opinion. I find his words very motivating for anybody teaching software engineering or deploying software systems in academic environments. I hope you also enjoy listening him.