Academic Freedom


Action 6 of the ERA Policy Agenda deals with deepening the ERA through protecting academic freedom in Europe. The Action consists of two main strands:

  1. Facilitate the development of a policy approach to safeguard academic freedom in Europe:
    The importance of academic freedom and freedom of scientific researhc has been widely recognised in important European documents such as the Pact for R&I in Europe and the European Strategy for Universities. However, in order to better protect academic freedom in Europe, there is a need to develop policies and tools to support HEIs, RPOs, RTOs and individuals.
    a) Updated and clear data on the status of, and on threats to, academic freedom in Europe is crucial. This is why the main tool that needs to be developed is a European monitoring system on academic freedom. The monitoring approach should have a particular focus on freedom of scientific research and also contain elements on foreign interference in R&I.
    b) Once the monitoring system is finalised, the implementation of a pilot monitoring exercise could be launched. Based on the results of the monitoring exercise, a monitoring report would be produced.
    c) The findings of the monitoring report would contribute to evidence-based policymaking and could eventually lead to:
    - definition of a policy approach to address the issues identified;
    - organisation of Mutual Learning Exercises (MLE) on Academic Freedom in Europe.
  2. Supporting HEIs, RPOs and RTOs in recognising and tackling R&I foreign interference:
    In recent decades, R&I activities have increasingly expanded beyond national borders to become fully internationalised and faced new challenges to their free and rights-based operation. Therefore, a new set of tools need to be developed to better protect European fundamental values and protect key research findings and intellectual assets.
    In order to increase awareness and understanding around this topic some actions are needed.
    a) MLEs on “tackling R&I foreign interference” could focus on exchanges of national best practices at operational level to identify, prevent and recover from foreign interference.
    b) Subsequently, national workshops could be organised in order to disseminate the results and further promoting the debate on the issue at national level.
    c) To facilitate the preparedness of R&I institutions to tackle foreign interference, the Commission can provide expert support, on a voluntary basis, to R&I institutions in order for them to prepare action plans embedded in their own governance.
    d) Use Open-source intelligence (OSINT), which is the collection and analysis of data from open sources to produce actionable intelligence, to develop a dashboard that will provide research performing organisations, including universities, and researchers with readily accessible third country information on specific institutions, individuals, technologies, affiliations, research projects, universities.

In parallel, the setting up of a one-stop shop European digital platform on academic freedom and foreign interference in R&I could be envisaged. Massive open online courses (MOOC) on academic freedom and R&I foreign interference could be organised by interested institutions and organisations.

The general expected impact of this Action is to raise awareness and create a positive culture on the issues of academic freedom and foreign interference in R&I.

For more information:

Explanatory document on ERA Policy Agenda Action 6: Deepening the ERA through protecting academic freedom in Europe