Five leading organisations committed to upholding academic rights and assisting refugee scholars throughout the world will urge UNESCO this week to take a stronger stand against persecution of academics and to show a greater commitment to core international higher education values.
The five organisations say that university professors and students are most frequently targeted by repressive regimes, not only during times of political instability. Since 2003, more than 300 academics have been assassinated in Iraq. In other countries such as Iran, China and Zimbabwe academics often face curtailment of their research activities, detention or in the most extreme cases even murder, because of their views or unpopular research.
The call for a deeper commitment to academic freedom will be made during the conference. The five organisations urge UNESCO to consider::
*Wider dissemination of internationally recognised standards of academic freedom, institutional autonomy, social responsibility and related higher education values - this includes the 1997 Recommendation Concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel.
*Greater sharing of information with regard to UNESCO's efforts to promote and defend the human rights of academics.
*A directive to assist higher education professionals experiencing threats in their own country or displaced by such threats and who have now become refugee scholars.
*Establishment of an annual International Academic Freedom Day to highlight the importance of higher education values including academic freedom, institutional autonomy and social responsibility.
Professor John Akker, Executive Director of the UK Network for Education and Academic Rights and the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics, said, "This is the first time these five organisations have come together in this way and it shows how seriously we all feel that not enough is being done to protect academics.
"University professors and students are facing more and more threats, not only from states and governments but also from other forces in their society. The whole international academic community needs to be made more aware of these threats and show support for their fellow academics."
The five organisations are NEAR, CARA, the Scholars at Risk (SAR) Network, the Institute of International Educations' Scholars Rescue Fund (SRF), the Foundation for Refugee Students (UAF) and the West African Research Centre (WARC).
The statement is also supported by the Council for the Development of Social Science Research which works in Africa to support higher education.
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