20 April 2023

What is academic freedom and how does it correspond to freedom of speech? When does freedom of speech become hate speech? How can Linköping University help and protect international scholars who are at risk?

Professor Claudia Tazreiter.
Anna Nilsen
These complex questions, and many more, are the focus for Claudia Tazreiter, professor at the Division of Migration, Ethnicity, and Society (REMESO), in her new role at the European Advocacy Committee (EAC) for Scholars at Risk (SAR) Europe.

Claudia Tazreiter, previously at the University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia, joined LiU recently. With a research background focused on migration issues and the experience of refugees, she is perfect for this new role. It can only be to her advantage that she has held similar roles in the Asia-Pacific region when she begins this work and its complex tasks. She recently began the two-year term and has lots of work to do. 

How did it feel to be selected for the ambassador role at the European Advocacy Committee?
- I was very happy and actually thrilled to be selected as the Swedish representative for the SAR network. I am also now the Swedish representative for the EAC of SAR. I have already had a range of meetings with both the Swedish committee and the European committee members. I now understand more fully the many tasks that the SAR network undertakes, and I am starting to focus on what the Swedish part of the network could best focus on in the next period, in both Sweden and also at LiU. LiU now has a leading role in this very important work as well.

Tell me about this new role. What does it include?
- The EAC have a range of work they have done for several years. One important piece of work that is currently being undertaken, and that will be important for Swedish universities to consider, is a new set of guidelines on academic freedom. The New York secretariat worked on this draft document for almost two years in consultation with stakeholders from various sectors including state parties, the UN systems, academics and other specialists. It is still in draft form, but once it is published and launched, I am planning a public lecture at LiU and will also offer the lecture to other universities in Sweden that are part of the SAR network to promote the guidelines. This is important to also more broadly highlight the topic of academic freedom and what it means. It is not always clear that questions of academic freedom are something that we face regularly, even at LiU. It is important to define and discuss the boundaries of academic freedom and that this concept importantly also extends to students, not only researchers. 

What do you think you can provide to the role, the committee, and SAR Sweden?
- Right now, I am immersing myself in the network, collaborating and discussing with other committee members, and listening to what the priorities are, both in Sweden and throughout Europe. I think I can have a very active role and work towards being a pathway between the EAC, the European Secretariat, the EU Commission, EU Parliament, and SAR Sweden. I think there are so many cross-cutting issues that the EAC work on, we do not have the resources to work on all of them. I think I can provide leadership to navigate that complexity where we can then decide on what collaborations SAR Sweden ought to focus on, and of course, what role LiU plays.

How can this role in the committee benefit you, LiU, and SAR?
- This role complements the work I have done previously on supporting scholars in exile and bringing their work to public attention. It allows me to develop this work, particularly within the European area. My intention is to bring Swedish and Nordic perspectives on academic freedom to the EAC and also to promote the principles of academic freedom within Sweden and the Swedish higher education sector. For LiU this role is an interesting possibility of what can be done in the next two years. This role fits very well with LiU’s international portfolio and LiU already puts a lot of energy and resources into internationalisation. The SAR role has the potential to bring attention to LiU’s work and what is distinct about LiU within research and teaching environments. It is a great opportunity but also a challenge, with lots of work to attend to.


Short facts

What is SAR?

Scholars at Risk is an international network of more than 500 member universities in 42 countries that supports and defends the principle of academic freedom, and that defends the human rights of researchers all over the world. The network supports vulnerable researchers by arranging sanctuaries at member universities.

What is EAC?

The European Advocacy Committee of SAR discusses and prioritises what the network can do in alignment with the European Commission in identifying new issues in scholars at risk, in raising awareness and in prioritising and supporting funding for scholars to have fellowships to continue their research in safe countries.

SAR at LiU

LiU has been a member of the Scholars at Risk network since 2021 and has recently welcomed one researcher through the network. A couple of more vulnerable researchers are on their way to LiU in the near future.


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