Academic freedom "must remain high on the EU agenda"

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Legal framework conditions at European level "are not sufficient to deal with infringements of academic freedom”, according to a speaker at a key public debate on the issue.  
 
Speaking at the Frontiers Policy Labs webinar “Powering Academic Freedom - Essential Insights for Policy Makers”, Professor Peter Maassen, lead author of the European Parliament Academic Freedom Monitor 2023 report, was responding to fellow panelist’s Professor Andrea Petö’s description of how the Central European University ‘lost’ its fight to remain in Budapest in the face of action by current Hungarian government, who introduced a “Russian-type science policy” and “managed to privatise all higher education within two weeks.”   
 
The Chairman and CEO of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) Professor Antoine Petit, warned against confusing academic freedom with freedom of expression, acknowledging that both are pillars of democracy, but academic freedom is about knowledge acquired through science and freedom of expression is about opinion. Professor Petit cautioned that freedom of expression can be used to undermine academic freedom. Marcus Scheuren, EU’s Head of Unit of the STOA Secretariat, also pointed to the European Parliament’s consideration of inserting protection of academic freedom into a future treaty revision while recognising this is both ambitious and will take time.    
 
Summing up, the discussion’s chair, Professor Robert-Jan Smits, former Director-General of DG Research and Innovation (RTD) at the European Commission, now President of the Executive Board of Eindhoven University of Technology, commented that academic freedom must remain high on the EU agenda after the coming elections, that legal instruments to protect academic freedom remain important, and there is a need for a permanent online platform for continuing dialogue with researchers about academic freedom.  
 
The line-up of commentators from across Europe were: 

  • Professor Dr. Robert-Jan Smits, President, Executive Board of Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands (Chair)  
  • Professor Dr. Peter Maassen, Professor in Higher Education Studies, Department of Education, University of Oslo (UiO), Norway 
  • Professor Dr. Antoine Petit, Chairman and CEO, the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), France  
  • Professor Dr. Andrea Petö, Central European University (CEU), Austria; CEU Democracy Institute, Hungary 
  • Marcus Scheuren, Head of Unit of the STOA Secretariat, European Parliamentary Research Service, EU