University Course

‘Academic Freedom and Human Rights: European and International Perspective’. 

This is a 48-hour course in English, organized jointly by the Department of Sociology and Social Research and the Faculty of Law. It will run in the Fall semester, starting in the a.a. 2022/2023, and it is open to all BA and Erasmus students of the University. Class activities will foster inquiry-based learning and aim at involving students with different disciplinary backgrounds into a common reflection and research on academic freedom. The course is taught by the ESAF group, and it will host guest lectures from UniTrento and visiting professors, as well as experts from civil society organizations.

The course is structured around 3 units:

1) Theoretical Unit – Interdisciplinary Approaches to Academic Freedom (16h). 

This unit equips students with a conceptual and theoretical background about  the debate on academic freedom. It addresses different dimensions, such as: the historical development and different interpretations of the concept; academic freedom and its protection in the International Law, in the European Law and in the Law of European States; typologies of violations of academic freedom in democratic and authoritarian contexts; academic freedom and human rights; students and academic freedom; institutional autonomy and university governance; employment rights and tenure; academic freedom and internationalization; risk in global academia; self-censorship. 

2) Thematic Unit – Key challenges for academic freedom in Europe (6h + 6h).

Students will deepen their understanding of academic freedom by working on specific topics/areas, and by linking theoretical questions to policy issues. Class activities will have a roundtable format and will involve experts from within and beyond academia. The topics (and geopolitical areas) covered by this unit might change in different academic years. They can include: refugees and higher education; scientific research, biolaw and academic freedom; memory politics and freedom of research; gender and academic freedom; academic freedom, communication and new media; university community, activism and prison.  

3) Learn-by-Doing Unit – Student Advocacy for Academic Freedom (20h) 

Students will work in small groups and operationalize their theoretical/thematic preparation into concrete advocacy research and campaigns. Each group will work on one selected case of violation and will write an Advocacy Research Report. Cases may involve single students, scholars or a broader academic community. With a completed dossier, each group develops outreach initiatives, addressing civil society organizations, government officials, and generating public awareness on the selected case. During the LbD/Advocacy unit, each student is expected to give a contribution to the design and implementation of the campaign/report, by drawing from its disciplinary knowledge as well as technical and creative skills.

Course disciplinary field and credits: 

SPS/11: Sociologia dei fenomeni politici (Sociology of political phenomena)

IUS/14: Diritto dell’Unione Europea (European Union Law)

Recognised credits; 8CFU (DSRS); 6CFU (IUS).

(Credit recognition might change for other UniTrento academic structures).