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MCO at the Inspireurope Virtual 2020 Stakeholder Forum

Academic Freedom for quality research and innovation

Does academic freedom appear as an item on your university’s risk register?

This was a question posed by Michael Murphy during the panel session on academic freedom at the Inspireurope Virtual 2020 Stakeholder Forum held virtually on 8 June 2020. The session was moderated by Sijbolt Noorda, the Magna Charta Observatory’s Governing Council Chairman.

The question serves as one way to make academic freedom a living value and to ensure that it is reviewed regularly.

Earlier in the session the importance of academic freedom for research and innovation, particularly during the current time, was explored by Murphy and his fellow panellists Philippe Aghion and Katrin Kinzelbach. Kinzelbach spoke about the Academic Freedom Index https://www.gppi.net/project/assessing-academic-freedom-worldwide which she and colleagues had been developing.

A number of challenges to academic freedom were being faced, many of them subtle and covert. Some of them related to sources of funding and the conditions attached thereto, some of them came from State sources. It was anticipated that there would be more challenges as post mortems on the handling of the current pandemic revealed findings which may not be comfortable to governments.

As for what universities might be doing to give academic freedom greater profile, the responses included acting with integrity and withdrawing from any university partnerships where it was limited, having a clear policy on and making academic staff and the public more aware of the importance of academic freedom and supporting those members of staff whose work was restricted in any way.

Academic freedom is a key component of the Observatory’s Living Values project, details of which can be found at http://www.magna-charta.org/activities-and-projects/living-values-project

Published on 12 June 2020