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Successful authors’ workshop on the EU fundamental right to academic freedom

On 9 June 2023, the workshop on ‘Academic Freedom and its Philosophical Underpinnings in EU law’ took place at the Academy Building, Leiden. It was organized in the framework of the Vidi research project The EU fundamental right to ‘freedom of the art and sciences': exploring the limits on the commercialisation of academia (AFITE) led by Dr. Vicky Kosta. The goal was to establish the content and scope of academic freedom in Article 13 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (CFR).

Commercialization and Academic Freedom

Recent years have brought increasing concern about the ‘commercialisation’ of academic systems. Higher education institutions adopt market and market-like behaviours, get organised according to corporate management principles, and progressively adopt what can be described as a functional role: to serve politico-economic interests. According to some stakeholders, EU laws and policies on the ‘European Research Area’ and the ‘European Education Area’ might contribute to such processes in EU Member States, with potentially far-reaching consequences for the organisation and functioning of science and academia. EU actions should therefore measure up to the applicable EU constitutional standard enshrined in Article 13 CFR (‘freedom of the arts and sciences’). Still, the content of that standard is yet underexplored.

The workshop

The workshop’s objective was to investigate the content of Article 13 CFR in reference to national constitutional laws, international law, and conceptual discussions. In the first two panels, scholars from different jurisdictions focused on how academic freedom as a legal concept has taken shape under six different European legal systems (Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Greece and England). The goal of these in-depth discussions was to gain insights on ‘the constitutional traditions common to the Member States’, as referred to in Article 52(4) CFR, which requires Charter rights to be interpreted in harmony with those traditions. The last panel was devoted to relevant developments in international human rights law as well as the philosophical and conceptual aspects of academic freedom at large. Speakers included Professor Eric Barendt (University College London), Professor Klaus Beiter (North-West University), Professor Adam Bodnar (SWPS Warsaw), Professor Roberta Calvano (Unitelma Sapienza University), Dr Joris Groen (Prime Minister’s Office, Netherlands Ministry of General Affairs), Professor Koen Lemmens (KU Leuven), and Professor Lina Papadopoulou (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki).

The output of the workshop shall culminate in an edited volume that establishes the content of this EU Charter right, its scope, and its conceptual justification.

The AFITE grant project

The workshop was organized in the framework of the five-year Vidi research project ‘The EU fundamental right to ‘freedom of the art and sciences’: exploring the limits on the commercialisation of academia (AFITE) led by Dr. Vicky Kosta and funded by the Netherlands Organization of Scientific Research (NWO). The project asks what limits Article 13 CFR might impose on the increasing commercialization of the academic system. The workshop on the content of Article 13 CFR is part of the first phase of the project. The next stages will examine the relationship of Article 13 CFR with commercialisation in theory and test concrete EU laws and policies and national measures for compliance with it.

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