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Academic Freedom Index Report

  • 04 Mar 2023
  • 4 min read

Prelims: Academic Freedom Index Report, Global Public Policy Institute, Academic Freedom.

Mains: Academic Freedom Index Report, State of higher Education in India.

Why in News?

According to the Academic Freedom Index report, India’s academic freedom index is in the bottom 30% among 179 countries in 2022.

  • Academic freedom refers to the principle that scholars and researchers should have the freedom to pursue their research and express their findings without interference, censorship, or retaliation from the government, private institutions, or other external entities.

What is the Academic Freedom Index?

  • It has been published by Global Public Policy Institute as a part of a global time-series dataset (1900-2019) in close cooperation with Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Scholars at Risk and the V‑Dem Institute.
  • The report provides an overview of academic freedom in 179 countries by assessing five indicators. It is based on assessments by more than 2,197 country experts from around the world.
  • The indicators include,
    • Freedom to research and teach
    • Freedom of academic exchange and dissemination,
    • Institutional autonomy of universities
    • Campus integrity
    • The freedom of academic and cultural expression.
  • The scores are scaled from 0 (low) to 1 (high).

What are the Key Highlights of the Report?

  • Global:
    • It identified 22 countries, including India, China, the United States and Mexico – where it said universities and scholars experience significantly less academic freedom today than they did ten years ago.
    • Only five small countries (Gambia, Uzbekistan, Seychelles, Montenegro, and Kazakhstan) representing 0.7 % of the global population, improved their rankings.
    • In the remaining 152 countries, academic freedom has stayed stagnant, For the average global citizen, academic freedom has gone back to levels last registered four decades ago.
    • Like China and India, populous countries like the United States of America and Mexico have recorded a decline in academic freedom over the past decade.

  • Indian Overview:
    • India scored 0.38, lower than Pakistan’s 0.43 and the United States’ 0.79.
      • India’s freedom index score was high in the past, ranging from 0.60-0.70 between 1950 and 2012, except from 1974-1978.
      • China’s academic freedom index stood at 0.07 in 2022, occupying the bottom 10 %.
    • India scored low in campus integrity, which measures the extent to which campuses are free from politically motivated surveillance or security infringements.
    • India also fared poorly in institutional autonomy and academic and cultural expression related to political issues.
    • As for freedom to research and teach and freedom of academic exchange and dissemination, India did slightly better than the three indicators above.

  • Factors for Declining India’s Score:
    • Around 2013, all aspects of academic freedom began to decline strongly, reinforced with the election in 2014.
    • A lack of a legal framework to protect academic freedom has enabled attacks on academic freedom under the ruling government.
    • There has been notable pressure on the institutional dimensions of academic freedom — institutional autonomy and campus integrity — combined with constraints on the academic freedom of expression.
  • Suggestions:
    • The declines in India and China could bear more consequences as they are home to 2.8 billion people.
    • Call on higher education policymakers, university leaders, and research funders to promote academic freedom in their own academic institutions as well as abroad.

Source: DTE

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