EI’s 11th IFHERC highlights the importance of promoting and protecting academic freedom in an increasingly hostile environment

During discussions at Education International’s 11th International Further and Higher Education and Research Conference, participants from all corners of the world voiced great concern about political developments across the different regions that undermine academic freedom.

Key takeaways from the conference discussions

Seventy union leaders and activists representing teachers, academics and researchers in institutes, colleges and universities from 26 countries and territories across the globe gathered for the  Education International (EI) 11th International Further and Higher Education and Research Conference (IFHERC) in Taipei, Taiwan, from 12-14 November. They identified the following worrying political developments: the emergence of authoritarian governments, the weakening and assault on democratic institutions and rights, and the fuelling by many political leaders of xenophobia and racism.

These developments have led to increased pressures on academic freedom, which is essential for the  aims and mission of tertiary education institutions to serve democracy and the common good of society through the preservation, advance and dissemination of knowledge.

On the second day of IFHERC, participants divided into group sessions discussing how various forms of performance metrics, from student evaluation surveys and citation indexes to university rankings, are used, and misused, to assess teaching, research, and institutional performance. Across the groups, the main area of agreement was that performance metrics are inadequate as the focus is upon quantity rather than quality. There was a proposal to gather examples of misuse or distortion of such systems, including student evaluation surveys, institutional rankings, fake articles or unreliable results published in high-ranked journals, and the “recycling” of research to present longer lists of publications. Participants agreed that such examples should be used in EI advocacy work.   

The Conclusions of the conference are available here.

Study visit to Taipei Tech – the National Taipei University of Technology

After the conference, a study visit to Taipei Tech – the National Taipei University of Technology was organised. Conference participants were welcomed by the dean Ho-Chiao Chuang, who gave an introduction to the university. Afterwards, they were divided into two group and took turns visiting the Control and System integration laboratory, which includes a robotics manufacturing zone and an automated visual inspection and assembly line, as well as the Taiwan Start-up Institute, featuring a 3D printer.

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