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Rectors ‘should show more courage’ on academic freedom


Promoting freedom in institutional profiles would strengthen researchers’ right to enquire, academy head says

University heads should take a bolder stance on upholding academic freedom, according to Antonio Loprieno, the president of the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (Allea).

Speaking at an 8 June virtual event organised by Allea and the non-profit Scholars at Risk, Loprieno said universities should elevate academic freedom in their public profiles.

He said that while many universities offer support to vulnerable scholars, “very few” choose to “make it a point of distinction in their own profile as academic institutions”.

“There needs to be a little bit more courage on the side of academic leaders, to be proactive in defending these values,” he said.

Broadening excellence

Loprieno welcomed efforts to show greater consideration of academic freedom and institutions’ contributions to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in university rankings, saying this would “limit this dictatorship of research” when it comes to academic excellence.

Academics could push for “a more diverse approach to the excellence of one’s own institution”, aside from performance in research, he said.

Made in Europe

Responding to a question from Research Professional News, Loprieno said European academics could strike a balance between promoting academic freedom internationally and letting it be changed by local conditions.

Academic freedom is “fortunately, or unfortunately, a value that was created in Europe”, he said. “I hope that, [in] the end, we will succeed in convincing even other cultures that this idea is in their interest.”