The roots of academic freedom – Underlying values and human rights perspectives

What would be the content of academic freedom as a human right, and what the benefits of recognising it as an enforceable human right?

  • Date: 16 FEBRUARY 2023  from 15:00 to 16:30

  • Event location: Online event

  • Type: Special Events

In the United Kingdom, academic freedom has always been a matter of convention rather than the law, let alone human rights law.

In the United States, academic freedom is recognised as a fundamental right under the Constitution, signifying university autonomy, however, rather than individual rights.

On the European continent, the reference in constitutions is usually to freedom of science.

Especially newer constitutions, such as those of South Africa or the European Union, however, expressly recognise a human right to academic freedom. International human rights law does not explicitly recognise academic freedom in any treaty.

Nevertheless, it might potentially be subsumed under provisions on the right to science, freedom of expression, or the right to education.

This webinar will explore the nature of academic freedom as a human right. It will seek to answer the question what the content of academic freedom as a human right, and what the benefits of recognising it as an enforceable human right, would be.

Answering these questions might also be relevant to the future work of the Magna Charta Observatory.



* Helle Porsdam, Professor of History and Cultural Rights, University of Copenhagen, SAXO-Institute & Faculty of Law, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Law

Academic freedom, scientific freedom, and the human right to science


* Vasiliki Kosta, Associate Professor, Leiden University, Leiden Law School, Europe Institute

Academic freedom in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights


* Klaus D. Beiter, Professor of Law, North-West University, Faculty of Law, Potchefstroom, South Africa

“Yearning to belong”: Finding a home for the right to academic freedom in the International Bill of Human Rights


Closing date for bookings : 16 February 2023 at 9.00 CET


There is no charge for this webinar

The webinar will be held on Zoom.

The link will be sent the day of the webinar to the email used to register. Please check the correctness of your email on the form.


Helle Porsdam

Helle Porsdam

Helle Porsdam is Professor of History and Cultural Rights and UNESCO Chair of Cultural Rights, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. She holds a PhD from Yale University in American Studies and has held fellowships at Harvard Law School, University of Cambridge, and the University of Munich. Between 2011 and 2014 she was a Global Ethics Fellow with the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs and in 2021, she was a Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the University of Cambridge. Her most recent publications include the monographs The Transforming Power of Cultural Rights: A Promising Law and Humanities Approach (Cambridge, 2019) and Science as a Cultural Right (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2022) and the co-edited volume, The Right to Science: Then and Now (Cambridge, 2021).

Background paper (see below):

Vasiliki Kosta

Vasiliki Kosta 

Vasiliki (Vicky) Kosta studied law at King’s College London obtaining the LLB in 2006 and the LLM in European Law with ‘Distinction’ in 2007. Subsequently she pursued her PhD research at the European University Institute in Florence on ‘Fundamental Rights in Internal Market Legislation’. From 2009 - 2011 she also worked as a research associate at the Academy of European Law, EUI Florence. In 2011 Kosta was a ‘stagiaire’ at the Court of Justice of the EU and she completed a traineeship at the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights in 2011/2012. In 2013 Kosta defended her PhD-thesis on 'Fundamental Rights in Internal Market Legislation’ at the European University Institute, Florence. She was an Emile Noël Fellow at the Jean Monnet Center of New York University (NYU) School of Law in 2017 and in July 2021 she was awarded the Dutch NWO Vidi grant for the project “The EU Fundamental Right to ‘Freedom of the Arts and Sciences’: Exploring the Limits on the Commercialisation of Academia”. She is Associate Professor of European Law at Leiden University.

Background paper: (see below)

Klaus D. Beiter

Klaus D. Beiter

Klaus D. Beiter holds law degrees from the University of South Africa, and a doctorate in international human rights law from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany. He was a Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition in Munich for seven years, before undertaking a two-year Marie Curie fellowship at the University of Lincoln in the U.K., where he carried out research on academic freedom as a human right. He wrote the first English-language monograph on the right to education in international law (Martinus Nijhoff, 2006). His research topics further include intellectual property rights, the right to science, and the extraterritorial application of human rights. He is a Professor of Law at North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa, where he teaches Intellectual Property Law, Socio-Economic Rights, and International Social Justice. He is a member of the Consortium for Human Rights Beyond Borders in Heidelberg, an adviser to the global Right to Education Initiative in London, and an ambassador to the Observatory Magna Charta Universitatum on Academic Freedom in Bologna.

Background paper (see below):