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Europa Institute


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.

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

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.

Research Proposal

For more information about the project, you can read the full research proposal here.

Vasiliki Kosta principal investigator and project lead

Olga Ceran postdoctoral researcher


Barbora Budinská project management


Publications resulting from the AFITE project

Vasiliki Kosta, Darinka Piqani, 'Where trade and academic freedom meet: Commission v. Hungary (LEX CEU)', (2022), 59, Common Market Law Review, Issue 3, pp. 813-852

Olga Ceran, Ylenia Guerra: The Council’s Conditionality Decision as a Violation of Academic Freedom?, VerfBlog, 2023/3/28

Vasiliki KostaThe commercialisation challenge to academic freedom: a matter for EU law, European Law Blog, 2023/12/11

The Research Network on Academic Freedom is envisaged as an interdisciplinary, semi-formal space to share ideas, research outputs, and collaboration proposals on academic freedom and related topics. Network Members can participate in the activities collaboratively curated within the Network and have the opportunity to be featured in the database of experts in academic freedom (see below).


The Research Network was originally established at the Central European University and, since September 2023, is hosted at the Leiden University, managed under the guidance of Dr. Olga Ceran and Dr. Vasiliki Kosta.

Activities of the Research Network in 2023 include mainly:

  • Online Seminars. Held twice per semester, the seminars provide an opportunity for members to present their most recent research and/or research project proposals and receive feedback from their peers in the Network.
  • Information Exchange. Members have access to the Research Network's mailing lists and are welcome to share information on events, calls for papers, publications, or any other relevant news on academic freedom with the Network. The Network managers collect such information and occasionally circulate it in a form of curated newsletters on the newest developments in the field.
  • The Expert's Database. Members might choose to be included in the database of experts on academic freedom and related topics, facilitating collaboration initiatives and public outreach. If you wish to get in touch with any of the experts, please do not hesitate to reach out to them directly, using the contact information given below.

Current members of the Research Network on Academic Freedom are invited to submit any proposals for further activities, both of a regular and ad hoc nature.  

Adam Bodnar is Dean of the Faculty of Law at Warsaw SWPS University, visiting professor at the University of Cologne (Academy for European Human Rights Protection), and senior fellow at the Democracy Institute of the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest. Professor Bodnar is an author and co-author of numerous scientific publications on the topic of human rights. He has held the position of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Republic of Poland since September 2015 and Vice-President of the Helsinki Foundation of Human Rights (2010-2015). He has been participating in the work of numerous national and international organizations and research groups, including the World Justice Project, Liberties, and the Foundation for Civil Democratic Movements, CURE Network – Campaign to Uphold Rights in Europe, and EU Fundamental Rights Agency's Scientific Committee (FRA). At SWPS University, Adam Bodnar teaches classes in human rights, constitutional law, and analysis of current cases in Polish law. He is also a publicist and social activist. For more information and contact details, please see Adam's personal website.

Olga Ceran is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Europa Institute of Leiden University. She is working on the NWO Vidi project 'The EU Fundamental Right to "Freedom of the Arts and Sciences": Exploring the Limits on the Commercialisation of Academia' led by Dr Vasiliki Kosta. Her research expertise includes EU law, fundamental rights, and methodological approaches to EU law and Europeanisation. Currently, she is particularly interested in questions relating to the use of funding conditionality for the protection of academic and scientific freedom in the EU. Olga holds a PhD in Law and an LLM in Comparative, European and International Laws from the European University Institute (Florence, Italy) as well as a master's degree in law from the University of Wrocław (Poland). For more information and contact details, please see Olga's personal page.

Daniela Craciun is an Assistant Professor at the University of Twente (UT) as part of the Knowledge, Transformation & Society (KiTeS) section and the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS). Her teaching and research interests lie in the area of higher education policy, specifically internationalization, fundamental values, social inclusion, graduate employment outcomes and quality assurance. Before joining the University of Twente, she was a lecturer at Bard College Berlin and a tutor and academic advisor in the OLIve Refugee Education Initiatives (Germany). While doing her Ph.D. at Central European University (Hungary), she was also visiting scholar at the University of Yangon (Myanmar), the Federal University of Sao Carlos (Brazil), and the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College (USA). She has conducted impactful research to inform higher education policy for the European Commission, the European Parliament, the World Bank, and the Council of Europe. For more information and contact details, please see Daniela's personal page.

Zahra Jafarova is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in the Higher Education program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, with a collaborative specialization in Comparative, International, and Development Education. She is currently associated with the collaborative project “Universities and Crisis” led by Prof. Jo Dillabough at the University of Cambridge and University of Toronto, and with the “The Future of Internationalization Partnership” project led by Dr. Elizabeth Buckner, a collaboration between Boston College and the University of Toronto. Her research primarily focuses on the policy and politics of higher education, with a specific emphasis on academic freedom and university autonomy. Prior to her doctoral studies, Zahra earned a Master of Arts in Public Policy from King's College London and a BA in International Relations. She is the 2023-24 Mellon/SAR Academic Freedom Fellow. For more information and contact details, please see Zahra’s Linkedin page.

Vasiliki (Vicky) Kosta is the project leader and principal investigator of the interdisciplinary project on 'The EU fundamental right to "freedom of the arts and sciences": exploring the limits on the commercialisation of academia' (AFITE), funded by the Netherlands Organization of Scientific Research (NWO). She studied law at King’s College London obtaining the LLB in 2006 and the LLM in European Law with ‘Distinction’ in 2007.  Subsequently she pursued her PhD research at the European University Institute in Florence on ‘Fundamental Rights in Internal Market Legislation’. From 2009 - 2011 she also worked as a research associate at the Academy of European Law, EUI Florence. For more information and contact details, please see Vicky's personal page.

Kriszta Kovács is a Senior Research Fellow of the SCRIPTS project "Science Friction: Patterns, Causes and Effects of Academic Freedom Contestations" at WZB Berlin Social Science Center. She is also an associate professor at ELTE University Faculty of Social Sciences, Budapest. She is a former Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow, a former senior adviser of the Hungarian Constitutional Court and a former co-president of the Joint Council on Constitutional Justice (Venice Commission, Council of Europe). She holds a PhD in law from ELTE University, Budapest. Her primary research interests are constitutionalism and international human rights. She has recently been researching academic freedom and its boundaries: How far does academic freedom go before other rights and freedoms limit it? How much demand do society and policymakers place on academia regarding their role in democracy? A special issue co-edited with Janika Spannagel will be published on these dilemmas in Global Constitutionalism (CUP journal) in 2024. For more information and contact details, see Kriszta's personal page.

Gergely Kováts, PhD, is an associate professor at the Institute of Strategy and Management (Corvinus University of Budapest) and the executive director of the Center for International Higher Education Research (also at the Corvinus University of Budapest). He earned his master’s degree at the Budapest University of Economic Sciences and Public Administration (Hungary) and at the Institute of Education, University of London (UK). His PhD is from the Corvinus University of Budapest. 
He served in the university administration from 2006 to 2020 in quality development, where he was involved in conducting satisfaction and student evaluation surveys, accreditation processes, developing management information systems and institutional strategy. He is still active in developing accreditation mechanisms and participating in site visits supervised by the Hungarian Accreditation Committee and international accreditation agencies. As a researcher, his main fields of interest are higher education management and governance, institutional autonomy and academic freedom. His teaching portfolio also includes organizational theory and public management. For further information, see Gergely's personal page.

Maria Kronfeldner is Professor at CEU's Department of Philosophy. She is working in the philosophy of the sciences, applied epistemology and social philosophy. Currently, she works on the Epistemology of the In/human Project and was a member of the OSUN-funded Global Observatory on Academic Freedom. She does research on human nature, dehumanization, complicit science, academic freedom, and on how values and knowledge production interact. Among her recent research outputs are the Routledge Handbook of Dehumanization and the MIT Press monograph What's Left of Human Nature, and papers on academic freedom, creativity, and critique. Her early work on creativity was awarded with The Karl Popper Essay Prize of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science. As Chair of CEU’s Senate Equal Opportunity Committee, she supports initiatives on equality and diversity in higher education. She is a first-generation academic, a voice for open and socially engaged philosophy, and combines artistic and academic research. For more information and contact details, please see Maria's personal page

Dr. Michael Lanford is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education at the University of North Georgia. His research investigates the social dimensions of education, with specific attention to educational equity, globalization, institutional innovation, and organizational culture. In each of those areas, Dr. Lanford also advocates for the importance of academic freedom, tenure, shared governance, and institutional autonomy in higher education. In 2022, his first book, Creating a Culture of Mindful Innovation in Higher Education, was published by SUNY Press. Dr. Lanford has published approximately 30 articles and book chapters for publications such as the American Educational Research Journal, Educational Philosophy and Theory, Higher EducationHigher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, the Journal of Research on Technology in Education, and Qualitative Inquiry. His broad research intrests include educational equity, globalization, institutional innovation, organizational culture, qualitative methods, social and cultural theory. For more information and contact details, see Micheal's personal page.

Rick Lawson is Professor of European human rights law at the Faculty of Law of Leiden University. He has a chair since 2001 and served as Dean of Leiden Law School from 2011-2016. Currently he is programme director of the LLM programme in Advanced Studies in European and International Human Rights Law. Rick serves as a member and vice-chair of the Management Board of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency in Vienna since 2020. He was involved in the drafting of the first LERU policy paper on academic freedom as a fundamental right (2010) and contributed to Leiden University’s policy as regards academic freedom. He gave speeches on the topic in, inter alia, Ankara, Budapest and Tbilisi. For more information and contact details, please see Rick's personal page.

Andrea Pető is a historian and a Professor at the Department of Gender Studies at Central European University, Vienna, Austria, a Research Affiliate of the CEU Democracy Institute, Budapest, and a Doctor of Science of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Her works on gender, politics, Holocaust, and war have been translated into 23 languages. In 2018 she was awarded the 2018 All European Academies (ALLEA) Madame de Staël Prize for Cultural Values and the 2022 University of Oslo Human Rights Award. She is Doctor Honoris Causa of Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden. Recent publications include: The Women of the Arrow Cross Party. Invisible Hungarian Perpetrators in the Second World War. Palgrave, Macmillan, 2020. And Forgotten Massacre: Budapest 1944. DeGruyter, 2021. For more information and contact details, please see Andrea's personal page.

Dr. Milica Popović (Sciences Po CERI/Institut Jacques Delors) is a political scientist, specializing in Memory Studies, Political Sociology and Higher Education Studies. She obtained a PhD in Comparative Political Sociology at Sciences Po Paris and in Balkan studies at the University of Ljubljana. She has been Postdoctoral Fellow and Project Lead at the Global Observatory on Academic Freedom at Central European University in Vienna from 2021 to 2023, and for her work at CEU she is a recipient of DAAD Fundamental Academic Values Award for Early Career Scientists. Popović also worked as a lecturer at Sciences Po Paris. Currently, she is working as an independent researcher and consultant on various projects within and beyond higher education, including issues regarding Western Balkans' accession to the European Union as a researcher at Institut Jacques Delors in Paris. While finalizing her monograph on Yugonostalgia and the memory narratives of the generation of the last pioneers in the (post)Yugoslav space, she is currently developing a new research project on the memory narratives of deserters in Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Contact details: milica.popovic [at] sciencespo.fr.

For all inquiries, please contact us at academicfreedom@law.leidenuniv.nl

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