Job security is basis of academic freedom say higher education & research trade unions


Higher Education trade unionists and representatives from 20 European countries gathered on 21-22 February in Brussels 2019 for Higher Education and Research Standing Committee meeting. Further to the resolution proposed by HERSC at ETUCE’s Special Conference in November 2018, this meeting was the occasion to discuss the challenges pertaining to academic freedom as well as ways to strengthen the fundamental values of higher education institutions across Europe.

After a fruitful exchange, HERSC members reported that the main threat to academic threat was posed by precarious contracts, which were preventing academics from carrying out independent research, and were concerned that private sector funding was heavily influencing what research was being conducted. Furthermore, members raised the issues of time-consuming bureaucratic taks which were preventing lecturers and researchers from focusing on their academic and pedagogical work and underscored that copyright issues regarding online lecturers were also a matter of contention.

In order to combat these threats, HERSC members proposed concrete examples of indicators and ways to measure academic freedom, namely gathering statistics on the percentage of lecturers and teachers on precarious contracts, the ratio of public and private funding in higher education institutions, the number of appointed or elected university board members, and the amount of time being allotted to bureaucratic tasks compared to academic and pedagogical tasks.

In addition, HERSC had the pleasure of welcoming a representative from the Magna Charta Observatory, David Lock, who informed members about the Observatory’s current Living Values project, which aims to develop guidelines which assist universities with the implementation and evaluation of their core values. Likewise, Robert Napier, Vice President of the European Students’ Union, shed light on the work being carried out by ESU’s advisory groups within the Bologna Follow up Group, in particular, a set of principles and guidelines being drafted to improve the social dimension in Higher Education.

Members were also updated on other relevant Higher Education topics, such as, challenges relating to European quality assurance agencies, the Romanian Council Presidency’s priorities, recent developments regarding the Bologna Process, as well as pertinent actions being undertaken by the European Social Dialogue Higher Education Working group and Education International.