Free to Think 2017 is the third installment in SAR’s reporting of attacks on higher education communities, analyzing 257 reported attacks on higher education communities in 35 countries, from September 1, 2016, to August 31, 2017.
“Over the past year, we have witnessed a continuing global crisis of attacks on higher education communities as documented in our previous reports. What has become increasingly clear this year is an anti-democratic fear of universities as spaces in which everyone is free to think, question, and share ideas,” said Robert Quinn, SAR’s Executive Director. According to Mr. Quinn, Free to Think 2017 “highlights the toll of these attacks on individual lives and serves as a clarion call to meaningful action for states and civil society to ensure the security, well-being, and sustainable future of the university space.”
Free to Think 2017 summarizes 12 months of data collected by SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project, and highlights six key, negative developments facing higher education around the world:
- violent attacks on scholars, students, and their institutions by armed groups and individuals, especially in Nigeria and Pakistan;
- sweeping actions against higher education communities in Turkey by state and higher education officials;
- violent repression of organized student expression around the world, especially in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Thailand;
- deteriorating conditions for higher education in Venezuela, where student-led protests have been met by state violence and arrests;
- widespread restrictions on scholars’ and students’ ability to travel freely for academic purposes; and
- legislative and administrative attempts to shut down or otherwise censor teaching and research institutions in Central and Eastern Europe.
SAR’s report demonstrates the extent to which higher education is often a focal point for violent and coercive attacks and is dangerously exposed under authoritarian regimes and in conflict settings. The report calls on responsible states, higher education leaders, and civil society to recognize the problem of attacks on higher education institutions, scholars, and students and to reaffirm publicly their commitment to academic freedom and the principle that everyone should be free to think, question, and share ideas.