Academic Freedom refers to freedom of research, freedom to teach/learn and university institutional autonomy. It is key to European top-quality higher education and to democratic societies generally.
It is a principle anchored in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights  and in the Constitution of most member States.
Academic freedom is a key common value within the European Higher Education Area mission, as recently emphasised in the Ministers of the EHEA’s Statement and in the Recommendation adopted by the Assembly of the Council of Europe at the end of 2020.  

However, to date, EU studies in most of European universities do not include comprehensive educational activities on the de jure protection of academic freedom rights in national and supranational legislation, and on the de facto protection of the same right in institutional provision. The topic is rarely debated within educational communities and in the civil society. 

With ESAF - European Societies and Academic Freedom: Patterns, Problems, Solutions - the University of Trento wants to fill a gap in present EU studies by developing a Module on the state of academic freedom in Europe and in a broader international perspective.  

ESAF develops through a collaboration between the Department of Sociology and Social Research and the Faculty of Law, and it pursues the following objectives: 

- to promote excellence in interdisciplinary teaching/learning experience on academic freedom;  
- to equip students/young professionals with knowledge of European Union’s and States’ subjects/policies relevant for their academic/educational paths;
- to foster knowledge and awareness about violations of academic freedom, - and on its consequences – in a different range of geo-political areas and with reference to different historical periods; 
- to enhance the inclusion of academic freedom in the civic education of upper-secondary schools’ students;    
- to bridge the university and the public world by disseminating open-access materials on academic freedom to university communities, experts, secondary school students and teachers, local stakeholders and policy makers. 

ESAF Module is structured around 3 TRAILS of initiatives that will constitute converging steps of a highly-integrated path:

TRAIL 1 – ‘Academic Freedom and Human Rights: European and International Perspective’. 
University course 

Language: English; Fall Semester, 48h.
This is an inter-departmental and inter-disciplinary course in English organised jointly by the Department of Sociology and Social Research and the Faculty of Law. The course it is open to all BA and Erasmus students of the University. It is structured around: one theoretical unit (16h), two thematic units (6h + 6h) and a learn-by-doing advocacy research and campaign unit (20h).
Every year, visiting scholars and experts will be invited for guest lectures. 

TRAIL 2 - Conversations on academic freedom
Public events 
Language: Italian; Fall and/or Spring semester.
A series of public talk will strengthen the relation of the university with the local/national civil society networks and with upper-secondary school teachers and students, and will raise general awareness about academic freedom and human rights.  
Every cycle will be organised around a specific topic and different case studies will be discussed. 

TRAIL 3 - Intensive workshops and conference
Language: English/Italian
ESAF Module will use intensive workshops and a final conference in order to consolidate the academic and policy debate on academic freedom, turning the latter into concrete deliverables, which when possible will be freely made available to university communities and the broader public.