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: November 30, 2023

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Multiple Institutions

Region & Country:Americas | Nicaragua

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 30, 2023, the National Assembly of Nicaragua passed reforms to Law 89, the Law of Autonomy of Higher Education Institutions, and Law 582, the General Education Law. Together, the reforms grant the government-run National Council of Universities (CNU) oversight of university operations.

Under the reforms, university authorities will be unable to appoint or remove students, professors, academics, or administrators from their positions. Instead, the CNU has the authority to appoint all university personnel: academics, university administrators, members of boards of directors (including the rector, the vice-rector, and the general secretary) and university councils (which include directors, student representatives, and union members).

The reform also grants the Nicaraguan Ministry of Finance and Public Credit the power to administer the state’s budget for universities.

The November 30 reforms come after a previous one that was enacted at the beginning of 2023. The earlier reform made the CNU the “comptroller of the universities”—an apparent attempt to centralize the country’s universities under government control. Since 2021, Nicaragua’s government has progressively eliminated university autonomy, including taking over dozens of higher educational institutions (see, for example, report and report).

Scholars at Risk is concerned about a national policy reform that severely limits the university’s control over core academic functions, such as curricula, hiring and firing of personnel, and students. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from encroaching on university autonomy. The degradation of university autonomy has a direct and negative impact on academic freedom and democratic society more generally.