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How does the Observatory work?

The Observatory monitors the status of institutional autonomy and academic freedom worldwide. It acts on behalf of a signatory or of members of universities, and also investigates independently. It commissions case studies on specific issues in individual countries or regions and publishes books and essays on a range of topics, all connected to current issues related to either institutional autonomy or academic freedom.

The Observatory conducts site visits to universities or university systems in order to explore the situation, always with the self-understanding to offer an objective view, an outside “reference point” to create shared ideas motivating sound and effective relations among actors in higher education and research.

The Observatory organizes conferences, seminars, workshops and summer schools where it brings together academics, decision-makers and students from different backgrounds to discuss the issues at stake and build a consensus.

The Observatory cooperates with major university associations, such as the EUA (European University Association), the Council of Europe, UNESCO, IAU (International Association of Universities), the ACE (American Council of Education), etc. It cooperates with additional associations and related governmental and non-governmental organisations.

The main focus of the Observatory is institutions and not individuals. Thus, in many individual cases, the Observatory also cooperates with organisations such as Scholars at Risk. Often, however, individual cases prompt a case study or an institutional action, that explores the context and underlying issues.

The Observatory also mediates between governments and university leadership, between rectors and deans. As one of the few institutions in the field, it works intensively with students, mainly with the European Students’ Union (ESU), which is also represented in the deciding body, the Council of the Observatory.