SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: February 25, 2022

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Higher School of Economics

Region & Country:Europe | Russia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On February 25, 2022, the Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow declined to renew the contract of Dmitry Dubrovsky, an internationally renowned scholar and an associate professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences since 2008, apparently on political grounds.

Dubrovsky, who is also a vocal critic of the Russian government and a human rights activist, was recommended for a contract renewal by his academic department and had received favorable reviews from students. Two university commissions, however, declined to recommend his contract renewal on multiple grounds, including the subject of Dubrovsky’s doctoral degree (history), Dubrovsky’s interest in taking up a temporary appointment at a foreign university (he had not accepted the invitation at the time), and accusations of grade inflation. Dubrvosky has disputed these claims and told SAR that the commissions declined to engage with him or provide him further information about their decisions.

On February 25, HSE’s academic council voted to decline renewal of Dubrovsky’s contract, though less than half of its members voted to that effect, according to Dubrovsky. That same day, the council also declined to renew the contract of another outspoken scholar, Prof. Ilya Shablinsky.

The rejection of Dubrovsky’s contract renewal request occurred amidst an intense political backdrop in Russia, days before the country’s invasion of Ukraine and a large exodus of Russian scholars and intellectuals from the country, including Dubrovsky, who fled with his family shortly after the invasion. Weeks later, on April 8, it was announced that Russian authorities had added Dubrovsky to a list of foreign agent media.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary non-renewal of a scholar’s contract, apparently based on political or ideological considerations, and an apparent denial of due process. Higher education institutions should respect and safeguard academic freedom and institutional autonomy, including by refraining from appointments or disciplinary actions based on political or ideological considerations. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, a politically-motivated declination of a scholar’s continued employment undermines academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.

Emails with Prof. Dubrovsky