On 27 April the long-awaited seminar co-organised by ACA and its Greek member, the State Scholarship Foundation IKY, on Internationalisation and academic freedom took place in Athens. The seminar had a turnover of around 100 participants and it represented the perfect forum to exchange ideas, knowledge and perspectives on the internationalisation of higher education and academic freedom. The high-level speakers approached the topic of the seminar from different angles (historical, philosophical, scientific, political), this way stimulating a debate which never ceases to be contemporary.
Opening words were given by Kyriakos Athanasiou, President of IKY’s Administrative Board and Professor at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and by ACA’s current president Ulrich Grothus. Participants then had the pleasure to listen to the words of Kostas Gavroglou, the Hellenic Minister of Higher Education, Research and Religious Affairs, who inspired the audience on why academic freedom is a continuously contemporary topic. Thereafter, the floor was given to Sijbold Noorda, President of the Magna Charta Observatory, and former President of ACA, who held a passionate session dedicated to Populism, anti-intellectualism and threats to the academic freedom and the life and well-being of academics. Allan Goodman, CEO of the Institute of International Education (IIE) delighted the audience with some very interesting insights on the challenges that today higher education has to face and that make the world less flat, less equal. Among the speakers there was also Costas Douzinas, Professor of Law and Philosophy at the University of London, who held a very passionate speech on the link between cosmopolitanism, critical theory and academic freedom. Following, Marijk van der Wende, Professor for Higher Education at Utrecht University, offered a critical perspective on the link between globalisation and internationalisation. Finally, Ioannis Economidis, former Scientific Officer at the European Commission, enlarged the field of discussion and proposed a link between bio-ethics and academic freedom. Two panel discussions among representatives of some of ACA members, animated the seminar: one dedicated to the question if populism, anti-intellectualism and authoritarian tendencies pose a threat to internationalisation in higher education, the other faced the question how national agencies and universities should deal with countries in which academic freedom is threatened.
The debates that sparkled during each session and the tangible involvement of the audience, proved the need to continue to keep alive the debate on this topic and, quoting the words of Mr Gavroglou, to always continue to re-think and re-discuss what is academic freedom.