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Protecting academic freedom and autonomy of higher education institutions

The Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, meeting by videoconference, expressed its concern about academic freedom and institutional autonomy of higher education institutions, considering that they were under threat, ranging from the criminalisation of researchers, scholars and students to the commodification of higher education – which undermines the idea that higher education is a public good.

By adopting the report by Koloman Brenner (Hungary, NR) on this issue, the committee stressed the importance of devising national policies and regulatory frameworks that take into account the principles of academic freedom and institutional autonomy, and called in particular on the governments of Azerbaijan, Hungary, the Russian Federation and Turkey to respect these principles.

According to the parliamentarians, member States must also provide adequate public funding for higher education and research to enable institutions to maintain their independence.

The committee encouraged the adoption of a common definition of 'academic freedom' at the next Conference of Ministers of the European Higher Education Area – scheduled for November 2020 – which should raise awareness among the academic community of their rights.

The adopted text underlines that national parliaments have a key role to play in identifying deficiencies and decreases in university values and developing policy remedies.

Finally, the committee proposed that the Committee of Ministers assess the feasibility of a binding instrument on academic freedom and autonomy of higher education institutions.