ERG SES C 09, Parallel Session C 09
The paper will present partial results of the PhD research work on university autonomy. As institutional autonomy has been in the focus of discourses and debates for centuries I will make a review of different understanding of university autonomy since early 19th century when we note ‘reconceptualisation’ of university affected by enlightenment, Napoleon reforms and Humboldt’s renewal of education and research. In theoretical literature authors mainly define autonomy as ‘operational independence’, f.e. “the power to govern without outside controls” Berdahl (1990, p. 171), “the degree of freedom of the university to steer itself” (Askling and Maton in Bladh 2007, p. 244) and similar. Neave on the other hand includes external societal expectations already in the definition of institutional autonomy when he says that institutional autonomy “has to do with the management of the university as a public institution, more particularly with creating optimum effective administrative structures that permit institutional leadership to develop and carry out those strategic decisions that enable the institution to discharge the responsibilities and tasks which external interests and stakeholders have laid upon the university and to do so with speed and within cost” (Neave, 2009, p. 12). As current ways of defining university autonomy might not be usable due to their complexity and broadness I will try to offer alternative thesis.
In recent years numerous higher education stakeholders and other organisations issued communiqués, recommendations, position papers or other sort of policy documents. They usually understand institutional autonomy as self evident right and basic value; however, it is linked to accountability and the university responsiveness to the needs of society. Magna Charta Universitatum (1988) defines academic freedom and freedom of research as the fundamental principle of university life. Erfurt declaration (1996) stresses the necessity for governments to respect academic freedom and autonomy and for universities to be accountable. European University Association (EUA) in its Glasgow declaration in 2005 notes the importance of institutional autonomy in order for universities to fulfil their roles. UNESCO (1997) in the ‘Recommendation Concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel’ emphasised the importance of academic freedom, while in 2009 it saw institutional autonomy as a necessary condition for the university to fulfil its institutional missions and roles, as well as to ensure quality, accountability, transparency and social responsibility. In 2006, European Commission adopted a communication which emphasises stronger institutional autonomy and accountability as a strategic priority. In 2007, Council of the European Union adopted the resolution on modernising universities which links institutional autonomy to universities’ responsiveness to societal needs. Council of Europe issued two relevant formal recommendations in 2006 and 2007 stressing fundamental principles of university autonomy, academic freedom and public responsibility for higher education and research. The Bologna process also tackles academic freedom and autonomy.
Main part of the paper will investigate how all of the above mentioned and other education policies target university autonomy, identify if there is any ‘file rouge’ and analyse if there are conceptual differences between the policy documents.
1. Berdahl, R. (1990). Academic freedom, autonomy and accountability in British universities'. In: Studies in Higher Education, 15: 2, 169 — 180. 2. Bladh, A. (2007). Institutional Autonomy With Increasing Dependency on Outside Actors. In: Higher Education Policy, 2007, 20, pp. 243–259. 3. Neave, G. (2009): Institutional Autonomy 2010-2020. A tale of Elan – Two Steps back to make one very Large Leap Forward. In Kehm, B.M., Huisman, J., Stensaker B. (eds.) The European Higher Education Area: Perspectives on a Moving Target. Sense publishers, Rotterdam, pp. 3 - 22
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