OSUN Global Observatory on Academic Freedom Hosts Inaugural Conference

On January 20 and 21, the inaugural Open Society University Network (OSUN) Global Observatory on Academic Freedom (GOAF) Conference presented the findings of GOAF’s Annual Report alongside workshops and roundtables with academics, policy makers and students. The conference featured discussions of global developments in the field of academic freedom and hosted debates regarding the most pertinent issues that have arisen in recent years. 

"Our distinctive mission is to document developments in academic freedom which identify and analyze trends and directions regarding the conceptualization, codification, regulation and practice of academic freedom," said Liviu Matei, CEU Provost and Director Yehuda Elkana Center for Higher Education and OSUN GOAF, during the opening plenary. "We aim to create a platform for reflection, discussion and preparing for action with regard to academic freedom, and to defend and promote academic freedom."

Matei emphasizes that GOAF's work is intellectual research that is practically oriented. The Observatory operates with a global perspective as academic freedom is increasingly international and the conceptualization is no longer contained within regulations of national borders. For example, when CEU was under attack by the Hungarian government, it was the European Commission which brought the case to the European Court of Justice, which then judged the case based on an international treaty.

Following Matei's opening remarks, Milica Popović, Postdoctoral Fellow at OSUN GOAF, presented the research to date which composes the forthcoming Global Observatory on Academic Freedom 2021 Report. Her presentation outlined significant developments of regulations and protections leading to international frameworks to protect academic freedom, and also emphasized how institutions, academic staff and non-affiliated researchers are impacted differently depending on the cases regarding academic freedom.

Taking a regional perspective, Gergely Kováts, Associate Professor and Director of the Center for International Higher Education Studies at Corvinus University, discussed the findings of the 2021 GOAF publication, Academic Freedom in Hungary, which he co-authored with Zoltan Ronay. Based on the analyses of legal regulations, interviews of higher education experts and academics, and cases published in the media, the paper analyzes how academic freedom has evolved in the Hungarian public higher education and research sector following the regime change in 1989 and especially between 2010 and 2021.

The session also included Daniela Craciun, Researcher, Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS), University of Twente presenting on "Fundamental Values of Higher Education and Quality Assurance" with discussant Danièle Joly, Professor, CADIS International/University of Warwick. Watch the full opening plenary here.

Later that afternoon, a roundtable addressed "Conceptual Challenges of Academic Freedom – different global perspectives" with Denise Roche, Advocacy Manager, Scholars at Risk Europe; Ayse Caglar, Permanent Fellow, Institute for Human Sciences – Institut fur Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM) and Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna; Diana Kormos-Buchwald, Professor of History, Caltech; Santiago Amaya, Associate Professor, Universidad de los Andes; Que Anh Dang, The Institute for Global Education, Coventry University; and Michel Wieviorka, EHESS; moderated by Aysuda Kölemen, Threatened Scholars Initiative. The full conversation is available here.

The following day, the roundtable "Is a Global Framework on Academic Freedom Possible?" addressed legal questions to conceive of a notion of international academic freedom, which additionally led to debates of whether academic freedom is a human right. This discussion featured Hilligje van't Land, Secretary General, the International Association of Universities (IAU); Robert C. Post, Sterling Professor of Law, Yale Law School; Kwadwo Appigyei-Atua, Associate Professor, University of Ghana School of Law; Monika Steinel, Deputy Secretary General, EUA; Thomas Keenan, Professor, Bard College with moderator Terence Karran, Professor, University of Lincoln. Watch the roundtable and closing remarks here.

“These are extremely important and timely issues which concern us not only as academics, but also as citizens,” noted CEU President and Rector Shalini Randeria concluding the conference. She added, “It is not only the autonomy of our universities which are at stake, but the very future of our democracies which are at stake today, to which the issue of academic freedom is really central.”

OSUN GOAF is part of the Yehuda Elkana Center for Higher Education at CEU. To be informed of GOAF’s developments and latest publications, sign up here and receive updates.