Protecting universities from attack

Following the terrorist attack that unfolded at Garissa University College in Kenya on Thursday 2 April killing 147 students and leaving at least 79 people wounded, the European University Association encouraged all European universities to observe one minute’s silence on Monday 27 April 2015 (12.00 CET) in remembrance of all those killed in and affected by the attack on Garissa and by other attacks on universities and university values around the world. While the events in Garissa stand out in their barbarity, we draw attention to the appalling reality that attacks continue to happen every day. 

In calling for this observance, EUA reaffirms its belief that any act of violence or attack on education runs counter to the fundamental university values of freedom of thought and expression, tolerance and autonomy and undermines the ambition and fundamental right of any person to gain qualifications and make a contribution to their nation, society and the world. Attacks on universities, their students and scholars weaken or obliterate academic freedom; have a devastating impact on research, teaching and access to education; and impair society’s long-term development. 

Safeguarding the freedom and safety of universities and university communities is therefore vital in ensuring the advancement of knowledge and the cultural and scientific development of humankind. 

The pursuit of knowledge has no boundaries and universities transcend geographical and political frontiers. In keeping with its endorsement of the principles of the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, EUA calls on universities across Europe and beyond to unite in solidarity in condemning these recent and any other forms of violence against education. It further appeals to the international community to take action to protect universities from attacks and prevent them from happening in the future.

Scholars at Risk (SAR), an EUA affiliate member, is an international network of higher education institutions and individuals dedicated to “protecting threatened scholars, preventing attacks on higher education and promoting academic freedom.”

SAR-Logo-High-ResIn particular, Scholars at Risk seeks to protect scholars who suffer grave threats to their lives, liberty and well-being by arranging temporary positions of sanctuary at institutions in safe locations around the world.

At its Council meeting on 30 January 2015, EUA endorsed the Principles of State Responsibility to Protect Higher Education campaign promoted by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). The initiative articulates a need for affirmative, public recognition of the ongoing and widespread problem of attacks on higher education. It calls on states to commit to protecting their higher education sectors through existing obligations, in close co-operation with institutions and staff and with due respect for the values essential to quality higher education, including institutional autonomy and academic freedom, to ensure that higher education communities are physically secure and free from improper external influence and intimidation. 

The campaign highlights the many cases around the world where education is a victim of violence, which can have a devastating impact on targeted individuals and institutions, on the quality of research outputs, teaching and on access to higher education, and undermine the core values of higher education – including academic freedom and institutional autonomy, cross-border institutional partnerships and student and faculty exchanges.  

The report Institutional Autonomy and the Protection of Higher Education from Attack, published in October 2013, examined for the first time the interdependence of institutional autonomy and security. The report's recommendations included calls for raising awareness and developing shared principles. This led to the report Education Under Attack, 2014 which documented attacks on higher education in 28 countries. 

More information on the campaign and how to support its initiatives can be found here.

European University Association (EUA)

Brussels office:
Avenue de l’Yser, 24
1040 Brussels
Tel: +32 (0) 2 230 55 44

Geneva office:
114, Rue du Rhône
Case postale 3174
1211 Geneva 3
Tel: +41 22 552 02 96