academic freedom

A fresh report provides a score to individual countries to specify the level of academic liberation its universities and educational centers enjoy. 

India has scored considerably low in the international index of academic freedom that marks the terrible ranking on universal induces of media freedom. And due to the attitude towards constitutionally preserved liberties of the government, the concerns might increase. 

The index helps to define each country’s academic freedom level and the researchers asserted that the primary goal behind this idea is o comprehend a university’s attractiveness in addition to its infrastructure, research output, etc.

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Precisely, the index and supporting report attempt to quantify the freedom of university thinkers to debate politically and culturally ambiguous topics without fearing for their safety or studies, and without any outer influence on the institutions’ business, based on a blend of detailed data and the assessments of 1,800 academicians all over the world. 

The authors joined with the Global Public Policy Institute, the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität (FAU) Erlangen-Nürnberg, the Scholars At Risk Network and the V-Dem Program at the University of Gothenburg, have thus formulated what they call an academic freedom index (AFI). The index has an ultimate value of 1, although a historical calculation the authors undertook demonstrates the value has reached up to 4 in the last century.

According to the report, India has scored AFI of 0.352 equivalent to the scores of Saudi Arabia and Libya. Unexpectedly, countries that marked higher than India include Pakistan (0.554), Brazil (0.466), Ukraine (0.422), Somalia (0.436), and Malaysia (0.582). Uruguay and Portugal top the list with scores of 0.971 each, followed closely by Latvia and Germany. At the ground are North Korea (0.011), Eritrea (0.015), Bahrain (0.039), and Iran (0.116).

India is one of a few countries whose AFI dropped by at least 0.1 points in the last five years until the year 2019. 

The researchers guided warning: “While there is an indication of a weakening situation for academics in both [Brazil and India], the extent of the AFI score’s decline seems somewhat disproportional compared to earlier times in the countries’ history, as well as in comparison to other countries over the same duration.”

India’s proximate position in the rankings is not totally startling and seems to be extensively contemplative of state interference with institutional sovereignty. Indian scholars have a complaint of state interference the most in various anecdotal accounts caught in the media in recent years, e.g. canceled conferences and talks, politically discriminating appointments, filing of criminal cases against student leaders for political speech, books were withdrawn from course curricula, etc.

Several universities in the country, most notably Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in the national capital, Delhi, have had to assert with more and more political interference, some of it provoked by agitations led by the ruling party’s student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, or else directed by the party through the education ministry.

The AFI has eight elements. Three are based on valid data and the residing five are ‘expert-coded’: they’re directed on the 1,810 scholars’ estimates “integrated in a Bayesian measurement model”. The factors are:

1.Freedom to research and educate
2. Freedom of educational communication and dissemination
3. Institutional independence
4. Campus quality
5. Freedom of educational and cultural manner
6. Constitutional safety of academic freedom
7. Global legal commitment to academic freedom under the  International Pact on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
8. Presence of universities. 

Next, each indicator-year data point for a state is included in the dataset only if at least three country-experts answer the functional question. Each country-expert is chosen after filling a form in which they are expected to list at least two professional sources and “publications in help of their expertise”.

The report remarks, “The AFI is disclosed to the public and continuously revised, and its data can be willingly used by researchers from any field who are eager in issues related to academic freedom.” The editors also “summon scientific inspection of the country experts’ coding and wish that more experts will provide their assessments in the years to come, giving validation, modifications, and additional nuances as related. 

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