Changing Understandings of Academic Freedom During the Covid-19 Pandemic

The Open Society University Network (OSUN) Global Observatory on Academic Freedom has published its first global report. The Observatory’s third publication to date, this report is the first one with a worldwide outlook. It comes approximately a year after beginning endeavor of researching and promoting academic freedom throughout the world.

The understanding of the concept of academic freedom has transformed over time. This has occurred at different rates and during different periods in various parts of the world. The report looks into the two last years, 2020 and 2021, coinciding with the timeframe of the Covid-19 pandemic, during which advances in academic freedom were manifold. Providing a systematic lens on new – sometimes contested – conceptualizations of academic freedom, the report identifies, analyzes, and explains recent major evolutions in the field of academic freedom globally. The report considers a range of perspectives on academic freedom, expressed through legal, regulatory and policy endeavors, as well as through explicit intellectual attempts at re-conceptualizing this fundamental value.

Guided by the understanding of academic freedom as a universal higher education value and a right, Milica Popovic, Liviu Matei, and Daniele Joly yielded a comprehensive overview of where academic freedom stands in the global context and where we should direct our attention next. Focusing on the question of who defines and codifies academic freedom, and for whom, the global report complements the Observatory’s research efforts promoting a perspective beyond cases and numbers. Special emphasis is placed on the relationship between academic freedom and democracy, assuring our research remains vigilant to the developments on a global level and identifies structural similarities to the threats on academic freedom in both authoritarian and democratic societies. In this way, GOAF complements research on democracy and advancement of open societies, which is central to the mission of the Open Society University Network (OSUN).

You can read the full report here.