“Academic Freedom, Institutional Autonomy, and the Future of Democracy” 

June 20-21, 2019 at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg

Sponsored by the Council of Europe; the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility, and Democracy; and the Organization of American States.


Academic freedom and institutional autonomy are essential to democracy as well as to quality research and teaching. Over the past few years, these fundamental values of democracy have come under increasing pressure in many countries across the globe, in a context where scientific research, learning, and the very idea of facts are questioned or ridiculed. Some attacks on fundamental academic values are dramatic and the focus of news reporting. Others seem less dramatic, but nevertheless pose serious long term challenges to academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and the future of democracy.

The Global Forum brought together perspectives and experiences from Europe, North America, and other parts of the world to develop a better and more nuanced understanding of the relationship of academic freedom and institutional autonomy to democratic culture, as well as the role of higher education in developing that culture.  The conference also helped higher education leaders as well as public authorities develop policies that increase higher education’s contribution to democracy in modern, complex societies.

This was the sixth Global Forum that has developed as a core component of the ongoing cooperation among the Council of Europe, the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility and Democracy, and as of April 2018 the Organization of American States, to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law.  The Magna Charta Observatory and the International Association of Universities were also partners in the 2019 Global Forum, which was hosted at the Council of Europe’s headquarters in Strasbourg.

Outcomes of the Global Forum:

  • An increased understanding of and commitment to academic freedom and institutional autonomy in advancing democratic societies.
  • A better understanding of how higher education can work with public authorities to advance its democratic mission.
  • Input to the ongoing consideration of academic freedom and institutional autonomy within the European Higher Education Area (Bologna Process) in preparation of its next Ministerial conference in June 2020.
  • A volume in the Council of Europe Higher Education Series


About the Global Forum