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Freie Universität Berlin Publishes Strategy Paper on Internationalization and Academic Freedom

University leadership expresses commitment with mission statement and governing principles

№ 187/2020 from Oct 08, 2020

The Executive Board of Freie Universität Berlin has approved and published a strategy paper on internationalization and academic freedom. The document contains a mission statement for a responsible approach to internationalization and sets out procedural principles to protect academic freedom when working in cooperation with international partners. Underpinning the concept are the three founding principles of the university, “Veritas, Iustitia, Libertas” (Truth, Justice, Freedom), which should guide all members of the university in their work, whether at home or internationally. When working with countries where academic freedom is systematically restricted, violations of these principles should be addressed directly with partner institutions. As a last resort, it may be necessary to end the partnership.

As an International Network University with more than a hundred partner institutions worldwide and numerous international research projects, Freie Universität Berlin regularly encounters situations where its partners are subject to restrictions of their academic freedom. Freie Universität Berlin was the first German university to join the Scholars at Risk network and as such, has for many years been actively committed to protecting at-risk researchers, offering them support, and often the chance to carry out research and teaching at the university. With the publication of the strategy paper, this policy of protection has now been expanded and explicitly applied to the international activities of the university. The focus is on strengthening the dialogue with partner institutions worldwide, while highlighting that joint teaching and research projects are conditional upon the protection of academic freedom.

President of Freie Universität Berlin, Professor Günter M. Ziegler, explained: “For many years now, Freie Universität Berlin has spoken up for academic freedom by supporting at-risk researchers. The new strategy paper now sends an important message both within the university and to our external partners, making it clear that academic freedom is a non-negotiable condition of our international partnerships.” Vice President for International Affairs, Verena Blechinger-Talcott, noted further: “Dialogue – including, where necessary, a critical dialogue – is a defining aspect of our approach to international cooperation. We want our researchers to be more fully involved in the partnership process and in discussions about who we engage with. Precisely because of our global presence, we have to be prepared to stand up for our principles. Responsible internationalization might mean, for example, actively supporting our partners in countries where academic freedom is restricted.

Freie Universität’s Executive Board is working with the university’s departments, committees, and administrative units on the further development and implementation of specific procedures designed to protect academic freedom. The university also plans to coordinate its approach with other central actors in international work such as the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK), the DAAD, and the German Federal Foreign Office.

Read the strategy paper online:


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