Academic Freedom International Study

published 17 July 2009 updated 17 July 2009

A joint publication of EI and the University and College Union of the UK, this study highlights constraints on academic freedom in five countries: Burma, Colombia, Israel, Palestine and Zimbabwe.

Author James Cemmel reports on the national situation in each country, the overall reality for trade unions and then the specific circumstances confronting the higher education sector.

The study notes that pressures on higher education differ in each of these countries, but that academics in all countries have made efforts to uphold academic freedom and resist its suppression. In some situations, of course, resistance has not been effective or evident. “Extreme examples include the use of paramilitary organisations as strike breakers in Colombia, the forcible re-education of university teachers in Burma, the conduct of party political violence on campus in Palestine, the absence of job security for many junior faculty in Israel and the summary detention of student activists in Zimbabwe,” he writes.

In a Matrix of Academic Freedom Components, Cemmel outlines many examples of autonomy and freedom criteria in terms of the political, economic, cultural, social and pedagogic rights of both teachers and students. In this context, academic freedom is seen as interwoven with other rights and freedoms across the society.

The concise country profiles contain historical context and political overview, case studies, information on pertinent legislation and regulations on higher education, human rights violations against scholars, students and university trade unionists, etc. The gender dimension of academic freedom is also explored in some cases, in particular the rights of women to access higher education without harassment on campus and to have equal opportunities to pursue careers in academia.

In his preface, EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen raises a concern about not only political, but corporate pressures on the higher education sector as well: “Throughout the past decade, there has also been an increasing trend towards the commercialisation of education, which has posed itself as a further threat to academic freedom.” To read the full report, go to: http://www.ei-ie.org/highereducation/en/documentation.php