European Student Advocacy Days

European Student Advocacy Days: The Importance of Students in Defending Academic Freedom

On the 14th and 15th December 2023 the University of Trento hosted the European Student Advocacy Days, the first of this kind held in Europe. The event was co-funded by the European Union within the Jean Monnet Project ‘European Societies and Academic Freedom - ESAF’. It was co-organised in collaboration with Scholars at Risk International, the University of Padova and Scholars at Risk Italy. 

The event brought together European, American and Canadian delegations of university students and faculty members from the:

University of Dundee (Scotland); University of Ghent (Belgium); the Management Centre Innsbruck (Austria); Bard College Berlin (Germany); University of Oslo and the University of South-Eastern Norway (Norway); University of Santa Barbara and the Roger Williams University (US); Carleton University (Canada); University of Padova, University of Bologna, University of Verona, the Scuola Normale Superiore and the University of Trento (Italy). 

The event hosted also student union bodies and civil society representatives, that is: 

European Student Union; SAIH – Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund; Supolka – Association of Belarus in Italy; Amnesty International - Trento;  Global Campus for Human Rights – Venice. 

During the two days, students and faculty members presented their advocacy research on violations against academic freedom and higher education communities in different parts of the worlds. Concomitantly, at-risk scholars and at-risk students from countries as different as Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan reflected on the consequences of ongoing conflicts and authoritarian regimes on the rights to study, teach, conducting research and on university autonomy. Laboratory and group work fostered a dialogue with student unions and civil society representatives on how to develop effective advocacy campaigns, and how to enhance public awareness on the importance of defending academic freedom for democracy and society well-being.   

On the 15th December 2023 Patrick Zaki gave a lecture on the topic From university to the prison. The danger and sacrifices of pursuing academic research in the SWANA countries.

Patrick Zaki dialogued with the artist and activist Gianluca Costantini and with Rita Monticelli (University of Bologna) on the importance of art and of solidarity in advocacy. The event was open to the civil society and it was attended by sixty students from the Trento Language High School Sophie Scholl.

Organising Committee: 
Adam Braver, Scholars at Risk/Roger Williams University; Clare Robinson, Scholars at Risk International; Ester Gallo, University of Trento; Francesca Helm, University of Padova; Claudia Padovani, University of Padova; Sara Hejazi, FBK and UniTrento Jean Monnet Centre.

The event in the local and national press: 

Video-News from the Italian National Channel (RAI)
Articolo UniTrento MAG (Italian and English)


Welcoming Patrick Zaki's talk Welcome remarks Patrick Zaki and Paola Iamiceli
Welcoming Patrick Zaki's talk Trento University Students with Patrick Zaki
Students presenting advocacy campaign - Bard College students
Students presenting advocacy campaign - Dundee University Students
Students presenting advocacy campaign - Ghent University Students
Students presenting advocacy campaign - Management Centre Innsbruck Students
Students presenting advocacy campaign - Padova University Students
Students presenting advocacy campaign - Students work on advocacy
Students presenting advocacy campaign - University of Southern Norway Students
Students presenting advocacy campaign - University of Trento Students
Students presenting advocacy campaign -University of Trento Students
Debating the protection of academic freedom in Europe: what strategies for the future? Panel participants (from the left): Claudia Padovani, University of Padova and European Advocacy Committee – SAR Europe; Clare Robinson, Advocacy Director – Scholars at Risk; Lauren Pray, European Student Union - Human Rights and Solidarity Coordinator; Selma Matsdotter Bratberg, SAIH – Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund.
Storytelling in Advocacy Panel participants (from the left): Adam Braver, Roger Williams University and SAR Student Advocacy Coordinator; Selma Matsdotter Bratberg, SAIH; Edzia Carvahlo, University of Dundee.
Conference dinner
Conference dinner
Conference dinner