Academic Freedom Today

Insights from Law, Philosophy, and Institutional Practice

 

The protection of academic freedom is a fundamental principle enshrined in almost every continental European constitution. By preserving research and teaching from inappropriate intervention or restriction through laws, institutional regulations, religiously motivated impositions, particular interests or public pressure, academic freedom safeguards the unfolding of free knowledge as the very core of a free society. Originating, in its modern understanding, in the age of enlightenment, academic freedom has for a long time protected universities and their right to self-determination from external interference.

 

However, as of late this essential principle is subjected to an increasing pressure directed at limiting it, if not at undermining it altogether: economic considerations, accreditation and evaluation procedures, political constraints, the demands of mass society – to name but a few – threaten to infringe the traditional principle of academic freedom in its double articulation of freedom of teaching and of research. The situation becomes even more serious, when extra- or pseudo-scientific mindsets penetrate the rules and practices of academic self-government, adding to the external pressure on freedom an internal threat that academia poses to itself.

 

The conference provides a diagnosis of the state of the art of academic freedom, bringing together historical and systematic contributions from legal and philosophical perspectives with reflections suggested by experiences and analyses at an institutional level.