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: December 22, 2018

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Various Institutions

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Sudan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On December 22, 2018, the Sudanese government reportedly ordered the indefinite suspension of activities at public and private higher education institutions in Sudan, apparently in connection with a nationwide protest movement.

Since December 19, protesters in Khartoum and throughout Sudan have been demonstrating over food shortages and demanding the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir. Scholars, students, and various professional groups have played a leading role in the protests. Scores of people have been killed during the protests, according to human rights groups.

Days after the protests began to spread, Sudan’s Minister of Higher Education announced the suspension of activities at education institutions throughout Sudan. At least one report suggests that the suspension applies to universities throughout the country, but this has not yet been verified.

As part of the order, authorities ordered students to vacate university housing, leaving hundreds of students displaced. Scholars and media sources suggest that the shutdown is intended to deter student and faculty protest activities. As of this report, it is unclear whether any of the affected universities have resumed academic activities.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about government orders to suspend activities at higher education institutions, apparently to restrict scholars’ and students’ exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that 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 Sudan is a party. While state authorities have a right to maintain order and security, they have an obligation not to interfere with the peaceful exercise of these rights so long as they are exercised peacefully and responsibly. University closures aimed at limiting expressive activity undermine the right to education, academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.

UPDATE: On September 11, 2019, the Minister of Higher Education announced the Sudanese Cabinet ordered the re-opening of universities on October 1st. The Cabinet also agreed to withdraw police from campuses.