ALLEA Endorses Statement Calling for Action to Help Researchers in Afghanistan

ALLEA has endorsed a statement by Scholars at Risk Europe calling on European Governments and EU Institutions to help scholars, researchers, and civil society organisations in Afghanistan. The joint call urges to secure their lives and careers and proposes some concrete recommendations to take action.

The appeal has been supported by 50 higher education organisations across Europe. Specifically, the signatories seek immediate action from European Governments and EU institutions to:

  • Continue evacuation flights for as long as possible so as to include scholars, students, and civil society actors who have supported the forward-looking, pluralist vision of Afghanistan that the EU, European governments, NATO partners and other international and civil society organisations embraced. Do not end flights until all are safely outwho wish to leave the country.
  • Increase resettlement quotas to help those in need of international protection, including researchers, scholars, and civil society actors. Ensure international protection is provided to current Afghan protection applicants through an expedited process, and prioritise and expedite family reunification applications.
  • Create expedited complementary legal pathways for candidates who demonstrate an existing host institution, job, or sponsor, including for families, that would facilitate their arrival and earliest adjustment. Many European higher education institutions are ready to host scholars in temporary positions; capture that opportunity by expediting the processing of individuals for whom they are ready to step forward, and providing logistical support.
  • Waive any intent-to-return and home residency requirements that may apply to visa applications for Afghan scholars and researchers for the foreseeable future. Barring full waiver, issue authoritative guidance to consular and border officials supporting a determination of satisfaction of the intent to return by showing a willingness to return in the absence of the Taliban, or a credible, durable and rebuttable demonstration that the individual would be able to return and live safely under the Taliban.
  • Establish a dedicated EU fellowship scheme for researchers and scholars at risk, including scholars, students, and civil society actors from Afghanistan, especially women and ethnic and religious minorities, to undertake fellowships, lectureships, researcher positions, or temporary academic positions at European higher education institutions. See the EU-funded Inspireurope project recommendation for a dedicated scheme here. Some funds for such streams might be redirected from existing funds budgeted for Afghanistan programming, but which may not be possible to expend under the current conditions. Nevertheless, new funds will be required to meet the most urgent needs.
  • Establish dedicated national fellowships for researchers and scholars at risk, including scholars, students, and civil society actors from Afghanistan, similar to existing national fellowship programmes run by the PAUSE programme in France and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s Philipp Schwartz Initiative in Germany.

You can read the full statement hereScholars at Risk (SAR) is an international network of over 500 higher education institutions in 40 countries, including over 350 in Europe, whose core mission is to protect threatened scholars and intellectuals. The organisation is inviting higher education institutions willing to host at-risk individuals from Afghanistan to complete a survey here.

For further information on ALLEA’s activities on academic freedom, you can read our dedicated website page.

Noam Chomsky on Academic Freedom and Intellectual Dissent

US linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky delivered the keynote “The University at Times of Crisis” as part of the international conference “Academic Freedom and Intellectual Dissent” co-organised by Scholars at Risk and ALLEA on 8 June. 

In his keynote, Chomsky reflected on the crisis and privatisation of universities and academic institutions. He advocated for enabling  the scientific community to make use of research funds without the intervention of politicians or donors.

He pointed out to this underlying tension within academic institutions as one of key aspects impeding the scientific community to reach an ideal of academic freedom. “Looking over the centuries, the ideal has often been uphill, but it has been a constant battle to try to sustain it in the face of external, social, economic and ideological pressures”, he argued.

He also challenged the idea of attributing the drivers of innovation and discovery in today’s societies to private businesses’ risk-taking. “This doctrine is mostly myth. Most of this work takes place in the public sector with public funding”, he stated.

An international conference on academic freedom

Chomsky’s keynote was preceded with an address by Ireland’s President Michael D. Higgins and followed by Q & A with the public moderated by Maria Baghramian (University College Dublin).

The conference focussed on the importance of intellectual dissent and academic freedom to democratic societies in a Western, particularly European, context. The speakers and the panel discussed the scope and the limits of academic freedom in the context of political populism, neoliberalism and the exigencies of the post Covid social and educational landscape.

Topics of the event included but were not limited to academic freedom in relation to other core academic values, e.g. openness, trustworthiness, research integrity, and social responsibility; the scope and limits of intellectual dissent and academic freedom; ways of strengthening academic freedom in a changing university funding landscape, the impact of social media on academic freedom and lessons from a global pandemic.

The full video of the events and the programme can be accessed on this webpage.

Discussing Academic Freedom with the President of Ireland and Noam Chomsky

On 8 June, ALLEA and Scholars at Risk organised the international virtual conference ‘Academic Freedom and Intellectual Dissent’ with the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins and US linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky as star speakers. The event focussed on the role of intellectual dissent and academic freedom in democratic societies in a Western, particularly European, context.

Academics and politicians came together to discuss the scope and the limits of academic freedom in the context of political populism, privatisation and the exigencies of the post-Covid social and educational landscape.

“When academic freedom is seriously undermined, in extremis, scholars may find themselves targeted for public vilification, job loss, imprisonment, or even death in parts of the world”, said the President of Ireland in his address.

President Higgins advocated for “the recovery of the right to pose the important questions, such as Immanuel Kant did (…): What might we know? What should we do? What may we hope?”.

In his keynote, Noam Chomsky reflected on the crisis and privatisation of universities and academic institutions. He advocated for enabling  the scientific community to make use of research funds without the intervention of politicians or donors.

He pointed out to this underlying tension within academic institutions as one of key aspects impeding the scientific community to reach an ideal of academic freedom. “Looking over the centuries, the ideal has often been uphill, but it has been a constant battle to try to sustain it in the face of external, social, economic and ideological pressures”, he argued.

Chomsky also challenged the idea of attributing the drivers of innovation and discovery in today’s societies to private businesses’ risk-taking. “This doctrine is mostly myth. Most of this work takes place in the public sector with public funding”, he stated.

 

Academic Freedom: Positive vs Negative

ALLEA President Antonio Loprieno opened the event with a call for action to the academic community: “There needs to be a little bit of more courage on the side of academic leaders, to be proactive in defending these values”.

In his keynote, he outlined the semantic trajectory of the concept “academic freedom”, from the “scholarly freedom” of medieval times to the “quest for truth” that catapulted the Enlightenment.

He also underlined the fundamental distinction between positive and negative academic freedom. Negative liberty refers to “removing the barriers to fulfil one’s academic mission” whereas “positive” implies advocating for a certain number of rights by the academic community.

“Do we want to protect individual rights, or do we want to enforce a certain number of values that we shared as an intellectual community?”, he asked.

“One pillar of democracy”

The panel discussion, chaired by scientist Jim Al-Khalili (Royal Society), delved into various aspects of academic freedom, from its inclusion in higher education and research policy to the role of scientists as activists and intellectual dissidents.

The speakers included Maeve Cooke (University College Dublin), Christian Ehler (Member of the European Parliament), Roja Fazaeli (Trinity College Dublin, Scholars at Risk), Andrea Peto (Central European University) and Peter-Paul Verbeek (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, KNAW).

MEP Ehler related the current threats to academic freedom in Europe to two trends: the extreme democratic tensions, particularly in democratic discourse, and the democratic decline in EU Member States.

“If academic freedom falls, one pillar of democracy falls with it”, he concluded.

Watch the recordings on ALLEA’s YouTube channel.

Academic Freedom and Intellectual Dissent

This conference on 8 June will focus on the importance of intellectual dissent and academic freedom to democratic societies in a Western, particularly European, context. The speakers and the panel will discuss the scope and the limits of academic freedom in the context of political populism, neoliberalism and the exigencies of the post Covid social and educational landscape.

The Science Academy’s Statement on Boğaziçi University (Turkey)

On 3 February 2021, the board of the Science Academy of Turkey (Bilim Akademisi) issued a statement about the events that followed the appointment of a new president to Boğaziçi University in Turkey. An addendum on developments at Boğaziçi University has been added on 8 February 2021.

Read the statement and addendum (PDF)

ALLEA welcomes Bonn Declaration on Freedom of Scientific Research

On 20 October the EU research ministers at a Ministerial Conference on the European Research Area adopted the Bonn Declaration on Freedom of Scientific Research, thereby strengthening the protection of academic freedom in Europe. 

Enabling scientists and researchers to follow their research interests freely and unimpeded by political constraints is one of the core principles of the European Union and ALLEA is delighted to see a strong commitment by the EU Member States to continue standing up for these rights. 

 The Bonn Declaration is an important step in the right direction. In the recent past, the European research community has endured clear infringements on academic freedom. This declaration is a sign that we can no longer stand idly by and continue business as usual and makes a clear connection between trust in science and its independence. It is important to stress that academic freedom also involves the responsibility of the research community to openly communicate their findings not only to their peers, but also to the wider public”, says ALLEA President Antonio Loprieno. 

ALLEA, together with its Member Academies, has been a proponent of stronger safety mechanisms for academic freedom for a long time and has worked with other relevant stakeholders in the area to speak with one voice for the research community. 

Read the Bonn Declaration here.

ALLEA’s reaction to the Parliament’s bill concerning the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

On 2 July 2019 the Hungarian Parliament has passed a bill which will strip the Hungarian Academy of Sciences of its research institutes and thereby will transfer the academy’s research capacities to the Eötvös Loránd Research Network (ELKH) under the supervision of the Hungarian Ministry of Innovation and Technology. The decision was made despite stark resistance from within the Hungarian science system as well as from European science organisations, including ALLEA, and is widely considered to be another decision by the Hungarian government to infringe on the freedom of science and research.

ALLEA President Antonio Loprieno said:

“We are worried by the Hungarian government’s attack on academic freedom, which threatens the autonomy of science and thus puts innovation at risk. The Hungarian Academy of Sciences has engaged in good faith and constructively with the government, which instead has chosen to disregard months of dialogue and efforts. As the federation of European academies, ALLEA will back our member academy and all Hungarian scientists and work with them and other international partners to defend science from populist pressures.”

The bill, which still awaits ratification by the country’s President, stipulates that not only the research institutes are handed over to ELKH, but also that the academy makes available their premises and equipment without compensation.

The Hungarian Academy of Sciences has made it clear that this bill is in opposition to basic European funding principles and poses a serious danger to the academic freedom of the institution as well as to the researchers working within this new network.

ALLEA and the academies within the federation deeply oppose such infringements and reject the claim of the Hungarian government that the ELKH will produce more innovative science.

 

Read previous ALLEA statements on this matter here:

ALLEA, EUA and Science Europe joint statement on academic freedom and institutional autonomy (April 2019)

ALLEA reinforces its calls to protect the institutional autonomy and academic freedom of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (February 2019)

ALLEA open letter in support of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (June 2018)

 

ALLEA, EUA and Science Europe publish joint statement on academic freedom and institutional autonomy

 

ALLEA, EUA and Science Europe call to protect academic freedom and safeguard institutional autonomy by providing and honouring sound regulatory frameworks

ALLEA, the European University Association (EUA) and Science Europe issued a joint statement today on the urgent need to back commitments to academic freedom and university autonomy with solid actions. The three partners, representing a vast section of Europe’s research and higher education system, maintain that academic freedom and institutional autonomy are of fundamental importance and value to society.

“Our knowledge-based societies are dependent on scientific progress, but the fragility of the core principles of academic life, freedom and autonomy, are often disregarded. Only with them can science best serve society”, said Antonio Loprieno, President of ALLEA. “Recent developments in Europe with growing political pressure in certain countries have made us painfully aware of the need to protect these values at all costs. It is time for scientists, but also society at large, to stand up against unjustified infringements and to call for stronger safeguards.”

The statement calls on governments and public authorities to protect academic freedom and safeguard institutional autonomy by providing sound regulatory frameworks and refraining from interference in the internal affairs of higher education and research institutions. It also urges them to guarantee scholars and students the rights that constitute academic freedom, such as freedom of expression, opinion and thought.

Furthermore, the three organisations call on universities, funding agencies, academies and other research organisations to foster a culture in which free expression and the open exchange of opinion are valued and the academic freedom of researchers, teachers and students is safeguarded.

“Recent developments in Europe with growing political pressure in certain countries have made us painfully aware of the need to protect these values at all costs. It is time for scientists, but also society at large, to stand up against unjustified infringements and to call for stronger safeguards.”

Antonio Loprieno, ALLEA President

Universities and academies have recently been the target of increased political pressures. The European Parliament triggered a disciplinary procedure to determine if democratic values, including academic freedom, have been undermined in Hungary. In 2018, the government banned the teaching of gender studies and forced the Central Europe University to relocate most of its activities outside the country.

Following a lengthy dispute over budget matters with the Hungarian government, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, recently had to begrudgingly agree to a reform of its research institutes, which places the institutes under a new governing body made up of both academicians and scientists, but chaired by an appointee of the prime minister. In Turkey, the academic sector has come under increased pressure after the 2016 coup attempt, with thousands of public employees being dismissed from their jobs, including academics from ALLEA membership and higher education administrators.

ALLEA has intervened with a range of actions, including mediation, statements and open letters, in support of academic institutions under threat over recent years. The present statement, and the partnership with EUA and Science Europe, is a call to action and reflects the organisations’ shared concern that academic freedom and institutional autonomy are no longer self-evident in Europe and around the world, with grave consequences for scholars, science and society.

Download Statement

ALLEA reinforces its calls to protect the institutional autonomy and academic freedom of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

In response to the ongoing and severely threatening infringements by the Hungarian government on the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, ALLEA has published today a statement calling to protect the institutional autonomy and academic freedom of the academy.

Read the full statement

ALLEA publishes statement on the inappropriate political infringement on academic curricula in Hungary

ALLEA has published a statement today on the inappropriate political infringement on academic curricula in Hungary. “ALLEA is alarmed by the Hungarian government’s recent, recurring and unfounded intervention in the curricula of private and public universities,  severely compromising academic freedom and autonomy that are key features of modern science and higher education, and regrettably following a pattern witnessed before”, the statement reads.

Read the full statement