CGHE Webinar

No academic freedom for early career scholars

Date: Monday, 7 February 2022 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Location: Zoom Webinar, registration required
Speaker(s):
  • Milica Popovic, Central European University (Vienna, Austria)

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How did we forget that the future of knowledge production lies in the hands of our future generations of scholars? Again and again, in the era of neoliberal discourses about “human capital”, we see scholars as “scholarly capital”, dispensable and cheap, exploited to make the “business of universities” profitable. We can see how scholars and, more specifically, early career scholars, get excluded from the vision of the modern university. Amid the debates on the need to reconceptualize and update our understanding of academic freedom, whilst authoritarian and neoliberal governments continue to wage wars on knowledge as a public good, we cannot avoid identifying a preceding need to reconceptualize and update our understanding of an academic. As academic freedom remains an elusive concept, ever more so is today its subject – the scholar herself.

The last decades of the 20th century already have witnessed a massification of student enrollment, in parallel to precarization of the status of many higher education staff members following regulatory changes, (public) funding decreases and, overall, the process of neoliberalization of universities. Existing international instruments do assert the right to academic freedom to scholars understood in the widest possible sense of the term. Yet, the reality of the working conditions of academics in the 21st century confronts us with a need for further emphasis on the importance of the economical aspect of academic freedom and continuous monitoring of the working conditions of non-tenured academic staff and researchers, and unaffiliated scholars, as they need additional protection mechanisms. Embedded in research on global developments in academic freedom and specific case studies (France and the UK) produced within the framework of Global Observatory on Academic Freedom, I will further reflect upon the specificities of the positionality of early career researchers and challenges in safeguarding academic freedom while being vulnerable on a neoliberal academic job market.

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