Internationalisation and academic freedom

A joint seminar of ACA and IKY

Athens, 27 April 2018


In many European countries, but also across the globe, there are strong populist, anti-intellectual and ultra-conservative tendencies. In not a few cases, ultra-conservative and populist parties are part of or even lead government coalitions and have an impact on government policies. Often, this has a - usually restrictive - impact on academic freedom. In some cases, the jobs and even the lives of scholars and professors are at risk. But there appear to be also populist governments that do not interfere too much in higher education, either because the ministry of education has successfully resisted efforts of interference from the governments’ top leadership, or because there are strong legal or even constitutional barriers guaranteeing academic freedom.

We, ACA and its Greek member IKY, are concerned about the present trends and have therefore decided to jointly organise a seminar on the issue. Internationalisation and academic freedom, as the event is entitled, will explore the relationship between populism, anti-intellectualism, authoritarian government and anti-elitist tendencies on the one hand, and higher education in general and academic freedom and internationalisation in particular, on the other.  Is there evidence that populist governments (always) pursue anti-international policies, reduce funding and programmes for international mobility and projects, and discourage universities and colleges to engage in internationalisation? Are critical scholars and students at risk of losing their jobs, being persecuted or imprisoned or, rather, where is this the case? These are two key questions on the seminar agenda. Another one is how higher education institutions and internationalisation agencies (like IKY and their counterparts in other countries with functioning democracies) should respond to countries and universities which restrict academic freedom. Should they suspend cooperation with these countries and their higher education sector or should they reinforce it, as a sign of solidarity with the threatened academics and in the hope that continued cooperation will ‘infect’ the problematic countries with a ‘democracy virus’?

In their choice of speakers, moderators, and panellists, ACA and IKY have remained loyal to their long-term policy: only the best! All our speakers, from Greece, the rest of Europe and the US, are highly reputed experts of international renown. On top of this, they are very good orators.