Call for Submissions: Academic Freedom and the Freedom of Opinion and Expression

How does international human rights law protect and promote academic freedom? A typical proposition states that academic freedom entails “the freedom of teachers and students to teach, study, and pursue knowledge and research without unreasonable interference or restriction from law, institutional regulations, or public pressure”.1

Although this gives us an approximate definition of what academic freedom means, there are many questions left open as to how States’ duty to respect, protect and promote the freedom of expression applies to academic freedom. How does this duty protect academics as a class of professionals? How does it protect students, scholars and teachers? Institutions of learning and research? Scholars outside their institutions, when they are targeted for their research or their non-academic activities? What is the scope of the duty to promote academic freedom?

The UN Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, is studying the scope and protection of academic freedom as a component of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The outcome of the study will contribute to the report of the Special Rapporteur to the 75th Session of the General Assembly in the Fall of 2020.

The Special Rapporteur is collecting information concerning the threats to and scope, promotion and enforcement of academic freedom. He thus invites Governments, civil society, universities and others educational institutions, private businesses, and other interested stakeholders to share concise comments and/or existing materials focusing on one or more of the following:

  1. Information concerning the international and regional legal framework regulating academic freedom
    1. International and regional treaties that regulate the duty of the State to respect, protect and fulfil the right to academic freedom.
    2. Practice by global and regional bodies that shed light on the scope of the duty of the State to respect, protect and fulfil the right to academic freedom, including resolutions, decisions and views by judicial, quasi-judicial and non-judicial bodies.
  1. Information concerning the domestic regulatory frameworks that are applicable to the protections of, or restrictions on academic freedom, such as:
    1. Laws, administrative regulations, judicial decisions, or other policies and measures that specifically protect and promote the freedom of academics, students, scholars, etc.
    2. Laws, regulations, policies or practice that adversely affect academic freedom as a component of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including university standards or policies used to monitor students and academics.
  1. Information concerning the impact of restrictions on academic freedom:
    1. Emblematic cases of state or institutional restrictions, constraints or influence on academic freedom.
    2. Policies to ensure that restrictions on academic freedom meets human rights standards.
    3. Remedies available in the event of improper restrictions on academics, students, and similar categories of individuals.

Submissions will be posted on the OHCHR website at the time of the report’s publication, except those containing a request not to be made public. Please send submissions no later than 30 April 2020 to using the email title: “Submission for academic freedom study.”