ACADEMIC FREEDOM: Autonomy in West Africa

A symposium and workshop on academic freedom and university autonomy in West African universities was held at the University of Ghana last month.

The event was co-hosted by Scholars at Risk, the University of Ghana, the Council for the Development of Social Science Rearch in Africa, the West African Research Centre and the Network for Education and Academic Rights, with support from the Open Society Institute).

Ghana's Education Minister Alex Tettey-Enyo opened the event with university Vice-chancellor Professor Clifford Nii Boi Tagoe. Academics, researchers, public intellectuals, administrators and activists from 11 countries participated, including representatives from Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Malaysia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, UK and the US.

The symposium and workshop extended SAR's and NEAR's efforts to build solidarity among scholars and institutions dedicated to defending intellectual freedom. The workshop in Ghana was part of an ongoing NEAR-SAR project, supported by OSI, aimed at developing global cooperation on academic freedom issues.

Participants discussed questions of institutional autonomy and individual academic freedom in West Africa and beyond, with the goal of identifying suitable practical approaches for promoting and defending these values.

The symposium included a discussion of current efforts to promote academic freedom in Africa, including in particular the important work of council's academic freedom and human rights programme.

Representatives from the newly-established African Academic Freedom Network encouraged new membership and explored opportunities for joint future activities. A full report will available on the SAR and NEAR websites soon.

* Jonathan Travis is programme officer for the Network for Education and Academic Rights (NEAR).