Safeguarding academic freedom

There has been much concern lately among academics about the freedom of expression, assembly, opinion, and thought in the academic field. These concerns have led to two statements by large groups of academics, one from Dutch scholars and one from major European academic organisations.

The former is an open letter, signed by over 1500 Dutch academics, in response to the ‘indoctrination hotline, set up by Forum voor Democratie. School pupils and students are being urged to report ‘left wing indoctrination’ in the classroom to a special hotline set up by the nationalist political party Forum voor Democratie. The open letter, which was signed by many historians, responds by stating that Dutch society will not accept any kind of political infringement of the critical research and education in academics.

Read the full statement (in Dutch).

The international character of these concerns is evidenced by the joint statement issued this April by ALL European Academies (ALLEA), the European University Association (EUA), and Science Europe.

“All countries in Europe share legal and political commitments to protect academic freedom and safeguard the institutional autonomy of research organisations” said Stephan Kuster, Secretary General of Science Europe. “However, government and public authorities need to better protect and promote those rights.”

Representing a vast section of Europe’s research and higher education systems, the three partners call on governments and public authorities to engage in a trust-based dialogue with research institutions, and not to interfere in their internal affairs. They also urge them to guarantee scholars and students the rights that constitute academic freedom, such as freedom of expression, assembly, opinion, and thought.

“While governments can prioritise research funding, the autonomy of funding decisions and the diversity of the research that is funded should be guaranteed,” Kuster added. “No discipline should be excluded as a whole for political reasons.”

Furthermore, the three organisations call on universities, funding agencies, academies, and other research organisations to foster a culture in which free expression and the open exchange of opinions are valued and the academic freedom of researchers, teachers, and students is safeguarded.

Read the full statement.

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