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How To Protect Academic Freedom?

Academic freedom is under pressure in many countries in the world. Researchers face closed doors, are prevented from doing their research, and are even threatened. WZB researcher llyas Saliba has long been addressing this issue in his research, including the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic for academic freedom. His recently published book “University Autonomy Decline – Causes, Responses, and Implications for Academic Freedom” together with Kirsten Roberts Lyer (Central European University, Vienna) and Janika Spannagel (Freie Universität Berlin), brings together several aspects.

The publication provides empirically grounded insights into the causes, trajectories, and effects of a severe decline in university autonomy and the relationship to other dimensions of academic freedom by comparing in-depth country studies and evidence from a new global timeseries dataset. Five expert-authored case studies on academic freedom from diverse nations (Bangladesh, Mozambique, India, Poland, and Turkey) are included in the volume.

The final chapter of this book considers the following question: What can be done to protect the institutional autonomy of universities? In particular, it makes three proposals based on the data and analysis undertaken in the previous chapters:

  1. Clear standards on academic freedom, including the parameters of institutional autonomy as self-governance, and accompanying international oversight are essential. 

  2. International accreditation and rankings organizations should clearly account for the intellectual autonomy of the university. Excessive government control or interference should negatively influence rankings and accreditation, given its impact on the higher education system and scholarship. 

  3. Universities themselves must plan for threats through risk assessment and work to improve their resilience to undue interferences.

Drawing on both qualitative and quantitative evidence, the book offers a new contribution to the field and will be of interest to scholars, researchers, and students in the fields of higher education, human rights, political science and public policy. 

8/12/2022, kes