Free Universities: Putting the Academic Freedom Index Into Action Through the UN Human Rights Systems

Thursday, Apr 15 2021 1:00 pm

Event Location Zoom
Co-sponsors Cara (Council for At-risk Academics, London); Education International; European Students' Union (ESU); European University Association (EUA); Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE); Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi); Norwegian Students' and Academics' International Assistance Fund (SAIH); Open Society Foundations Education Program (OSF); PEN International; Right to Education Initiative
Contact Chelsea Blackburn Cohen,
In Event Types: Discussion Panel Webinar

Register Now

FREE UNIVERSITIES: Putting the Academic Freedom Index Into Action Through the UN Human Rights Systems


  • Ms. Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression
  • Ms. Koumbou Boly Barry, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education
  • Mr. Mikel Mancisidor, Member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)
  • Ms. Janika Spannagel, Research Fellow at the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi)
When:  15 April 2021, 9:00 ET / 15:00 CET
Where:  Via Zoom
Duration:  1 hour


Academic freedom is a universal right and essential to quality education, teaching and research. It is a driver of innovation, enhances the capacity of scholars and students to acquire and generate knowledge, and thereby protects societies’ capacity for self-reflection. While states and universities throughout the world have long committed to respecting academic freedom, it remains poorly understood – and is under attack in many places, including new threats ushered in by the pandemic. Most notable among these are increased opportunities for the surveillance of research, teaching and discourse, as well as sanctions, restrictions, self-censorship, and isolation. While these measures are especially prevalent in repressive countries, online harassment can happen anywhere. In the coming year, states, higher education leaders and institutions, funders, and advocates alike must remain alert to and guard against such threats to academic inquiry and expression. We must redouble our commitment to the principle that academic freedom matters – not just to higher education, but to everyone. The Academic Freedom Index (AFi) draws on contributions by some 2,000 country experts from around the world and covers 175 countries and territories over the period from 1900 to 2020. The webinar will present the AFi as a robust instrument that can inform research and drive human rights policy debates among government officials, parliamentarians, research funders, university administrators, academics, students, and advocates.

Scholars at Risk is grateful to the following co-sponsors of this event: