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Universities call for creation of academic freedom watchdog

Dedicated European ombudsperson would provide “quick, impartial and effective” response to freedom violations

The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, a network of 21 institutions, has called for the creation of a European ombudsperson to defend academic freedom.

The proposed watchdog would “respond quickly, impartially and effectively to infringements on academic freedom in all its forms”, the Guild suggested on 17 June.

It said the post was needed because science was being “contested, distorted and undermined by influencers, organisations and platforms denying evidence and facts”.

The ombudsperson should hold those who breach academic freedom to account based on the Bonn Declaration, a pledge to uphold academic freedom that has been signed by every EU member state. The Bonn Declaration covers both institutional and governmental infringements on freedom, meaning the Guild’s proposed ombudsperson would scrutinise the actions of both ministries and universities.

An existing European Ombudsman is tasked with holding the EU’s institutions and agencies to account.