Universiteit Leiden

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Europa Institute

Academic Freedom (AFITE)

The EU fundamental right to ‘freedom of the arts and sciences’: exploring the limits on the commercialisation of academia (AFITE)

AFITE is an interdisciplinary five-year research project. It is funded by the Netherlands Organization of Scientific Research (NWO), as part of its Vidi scheme. Its principal investigator and project lead is Dr. Vasiliki Kosta.

Project description

The academic system is increasingly being ‘commercialised’. EU laws and policies on the ‘European Research Area’ and on the ‘European Education Area’ have the potential to contribute to a state of commercialisation of academia in EU Member States. They should measure up to the applicable EU constitutional standard enshrined in Art. 13 CFR (‘freedoms of the arts and sciences’), but the content of that standard is as yet unknown.

The role of commercialisation

‘Commercialisation’ means that higher education institutions adopt market and market-like behaviours, that they are organised according to corporate management principles, or that the academic system assumes in its essence a functional role: to serve politico-economic interests.

The process of commercialisation touches the core of how university education is provided and received today as well as how academic research is conducted. Ultimately, it may have a direct impact on science itself, potentially obstructing it from fulfilling its function – conventionally assumed to be truth-finding – with societal repercussions.

Testing the EU laws

The AFITE project asks what role EU public law plays vis-à-vis the phenomenon of commercialisation. It asks what limits, if any, the EU fundamental right to ‘freedom of the arts and sciences’ poses on the commercialisation of academia. This right encompasses ‘freedom of scientific research’ and ‘academic freedom’. The AFITE project establishes the content of this EU Charter right, its scope, and its philosophical justification. It examines its relationship with commercialisation in theory, and it tests concrete EU laws and policies and national measures for compliance with it.

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