Academic freedom in decline

Index of Academic Freedom, World and Regional Averages, 1960-2021 (right side: population weighted). Credit: FAU;V-Dem

Academic freedom is a universal human right. Yet the 2022 release of the Academic Freedom Index (AFI) reveals that nearly two in five people worldwide live in countries where academic freedom has declined significantly over the past decade. Countries where academic freedom is drastically decreasing include, for example, Brazil, Cameroon, India, Russia, Thailand, and the United States.

The AFI is the result of an international collaboration involving more than 2050 national experts from around the world, coordinated by researchers from the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg and the Institute of Political Science. The German Volkswagen Foundation is funding the project for a total of five years.

Two out of five people worldwide are affected

This year’s AFI update shows that academic freedom fell significantly from 2011 in nineteen countries and territories, and improved in only two. The declines affect 37% of the world’s population, or almost two in five people worldwide.

Brazil, Hong Kong, India, and Turkey experienced the largest declines in academic freedom between 2011 and 2021. Notably, the deteriorations now also affect countries with relatively high levels of academic freedom. For example, researchers and universities in Mexico, Poland, the United States and the United Kingdom face increasing limitations on academic freedom. Germany, on the other hand, received the highest AFI score in this year’s assessment.

Dr. Georg Schütte, Secretary General of the Volkswagen Foundation, points out that “academic freedom is a highly valued public good to which the Foundation is explicitly committed. It is a prerequisite for good science. We support the Index because it makes an important contribution to generating more knowledge about academic freedom, its mechanisms and its effects around the world.”

International data collection for five indicators

The AFI provides data on academic freedom around the world for the period from 1900 to 2021. The index is based on the ratings of more than 2,050 national experts around the world (academics who usually live in the country they assess ). These expert assessments are aggregated using a statistical model developed by the international V-Dem project team for its broader democracy dataset.

The AFI itself is made up of five indicators, namely freedom to research and teach; freedom of academic exchange and dissemination; the institutional autonomy of universities; campus integrity; and freedom of academic and cultural expression.

Free access and viewing

The detailed data that makes up AFI 1900-2021 is freely available to facilitate further study. Easy-to-use visualization tools are available to anyone interested and can be viewed by university administrations, research funders, and policy makers.

More than two-thirds of UK social scientists warn their academic freedom is at risk

More information:
Academic Freedom Index: … ex/index/docId/18612

Provided by Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nurnberg

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