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Protecting academic freedom and the autonomy of higher education institutions

Budapest, University

The PACE Standing Committee, meeting by videoconference, called on member States to enshrine the protection of academic freedom and institutional autonomy in national legislation, and to provide adequate public funding for higher education and research, enabling institutions to maintain their independence.

Adopting a resolution based on the report by Koloman Brenner (Hungary, NR), the Standing 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.

These values are under threat today, the parliamentarians said, citing “the criminalisation of researchers, scholars and students; the commodification of higher education and commercialisation of knowledge”, as well as the increasing external funding.

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.

The Standing Committee also welcomed the adoption of a common definition of 'academic freedom' at the Conference of Ministers of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) on 19 November 2020, which would help raise awareness among the academic community of their rights and to hold states accountable for any violations.

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