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: March 07, 2023

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Universidad Cristiana Autonoma de Nicaragua | Universidad Juan Pablo II

Region & Country:Americas | Nicaragua

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March 7, 2023, Nicaraguan authorities announced the seizure of the Universidad Juan Pablo II and the Universidad Cristiana Autonoma de Nicaragua, both of which are affiliated with the Catholic church.

The Nicaraguan government claimed that the reason for the seizure was the universities’ failure to meet administrative reporting requirements concerning their finances and leadership. However, the seizures appear to be part of a broader pattern, ongoing since 2018, in which the government has taken over a number of institutions seen as opposed to the Ortega regime (see report). Similar past takeovers have reportedly led to the termination of professors critical of the government.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the targeting and takeover of higher education institutions by national policymakers, apparently as retaliation for expressive activity or political opinion – conduct which is expressly protected by international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Nicaragua is a party. Enforcement of administrative laws and regulations, such as financial disclosure requirements, must be transparent, non-partisan, and proportionate, taking into account relevant human rights concerns including academic freedom and university autonomy. The summary government takeover of multiple higher education institutions severely undermines these values, and harms democratic society generally.