Academic Freedom Policymaking at the Council of Europe
The need for policies and actions to defend academic freedom and institutional autonomy, and more generally higher education and democratic values, has received growing attention by European policy makers and the higher education community in Europe, including the European Union, the Council of Europe, and the European Higher Education Area. Increasingly, this attention has also included affirmation of the importance of supporting displaced, at-risk and refugee scholars, and the acknowledgement of the interdependence between human rights and the advancement of academic freedom.
Academic freedom figures frequently in recommendations of the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe’s two statutory bodies, the Committee of Ministers, comprising the foreign ministers of each member state, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which is composed of members of the national parliaments of each member state, have adopted a number of standard-setting instruments in relation to academic freedom.
On 16 October 2019, the Committee of Ministers to Member States of the Council of Europe adopted a recommendation on fostering a culture of ethics in the teaching profession, (Recommendation CM/Rec(2019)9), where in the context of autonomy and independence of individual institutions, it called for the development of “measures to grant appropriate autonomy to individual institutions with a view to avoiding excessive political control of education” (para. 4.9).
On 28 June 2017, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted a Motion for a resolution, ‘Threats to academic freedom and autonomy of higher education institutions in Europe’, (Motion for a resolution Doc. 14365).
This following are related documents:
On 16 October 2020, the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media produced a report on ‘Threats to academic freedom and autonomy of higher education institutions in Europe’, (Report, Doc. 15167). The report calls on the Committee of Ministers to “assess the feasibility of drafting a binding instrument that could set up a proper international framework of assistance, monitoring and assessment of the protection of academic freedom and institutional autonomy in the member States”.
On 20 November 2020, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted a Recommendation on ‘Threats to academic freedom and autonomy of higher education institutions in Europe’, (Recommendation 2189 (2020)) called on the Committee of Ministers to: carry out an empirical study on academic freedom (para. 5.2.1); draw up an action plan (para. 5.2.2); a study on constitutional and legislative frameworks in member States, and make policy recommendations on the basis of this study (para. 5.2.3.); and assess the need for and feasibility of a binding instrument on academic freedom and institutional autonomy (para. 5.2.4).
On 20 November 2020, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted a Resolution on ‘Threats to academic freedom and autonomy of higher education institutions in Europe’, (Resolution 2352 (2020)), where they commended the “various initiatives that different international bodies such as the Council of Europe, the EHEA/Bologna Process or the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) are currently undertaking with a view to developing new mechanisms to monitor the implementation of academic values in higher education institutions. The Assembly encourages them to bring all the different existing frameworks together and to combine their respective strengths and resources in order to avoid duplication of effort, maximise the added value of the research and enhance the chances for broad policy development and implementation. In this respect, the Assembly welcomes the 2019 Declaration of the Global Forum on Academic Freedom, Institutional Autonomy and the Future of Democracy and urges academic communities, higher education leaders, public authorities, the ministries of the [European Higher Education Area] and other stakeholders to adhere to its recommendations.”(para. 8)
On 8 June 2021, the Committee of Ministers adopted a Reply to Recommendation 2189(2020), and noted “the possibility, in the years to come, of drawing up an action plan to give policy advice on academic freedom and institutional autonomy, and assessing the feasibility of a binding instrument in this respect”. (para. 8)(Doc 15312, June 2021)
On 20 June 2012, the Committee of Ministers to Member States of the Council of Europe adopted a recommendation on the responsibility of public authorities for academic freedom and institutional autonomy (Recommendation CM/Rec (2012)7), “[c]onsidering academic freedom and institutional autonomy as intrinsic values of higher education which are essential to the overarching values and goals of the Council of Europe – democracy, human rights and the rule of law”.
On 16 May 2007, the Committee of Ministers to Member States of the Council of Europe adopted a recommendation on the public responsibility for higher education and research (Recommendation Rec/ CM(2007)6), stating that “[p]ublic responsibility should be exercised with due regard for the need of higher education and research institutions and systems, as well as their staff and students, to act freely and efficiently in the pursuit of their mission. Public authorities therefore have a responsibility to promote autonomy for higher education and research institutions as well as academic freedom for individual members of the academic community.” (para. 3)
On 30 June 2006, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted a recommendation calling on the Committee of Ministers to “strengthen its work on academic freedom and university autonomy as a fundamental requirement of any democratic society”. (Recommendation 1762 (2006))
On 30 March 2000, the Committee of Ministers adopted a recommendation underlining aspects of academic freedom in academic research (Recommendation No. R (2000) 8), stating that “[i]n the setting of priorities for research, governments should, together with higher education institutions, ensure the academic freedom of individual researchers within the overall structure of the higher education system established by the competent state authorities (para. 3.1.), and “[g]overnments and universities should be encouraged to adopt rules governing university research reflecting the specific characteristics of scientific work and respecting the academic freedom of researchers at all stages of their careers” (para. 6.1).