Autonomy and freedom: The future sustainability of universities

University autonomy and academic freedom are crucial for the well-functioning of universities and higher education systems. The current political, economic and societal challenges in Europe have a significant impact on universities and their role, as well as their organisation and strategy. The conference was a timely occasion to discuss how autonomy and freedom of universities can be linked to addressing these challenges.

EUA has become one of the most important actors on these topics through its numerous conferences, meetings and studies, as well as through its exclusive benchmarking tool, the Autonomy Scorecard, which is used in Europe and beyond.

EUA Annual Conference 2017



Since 2015, EUA has been collecting data with its members for a full-scale update of the Scorecard in order to evaluate the current state of play. The new version will be launched at the Annual Conference and it will provide the backdrop for a discussion on the latest trends, challenges and future of autonomy and academic freedom.

The conference brought together institutional leaders, policymakers and stakeholders to share their experience, discuss the impact of recent changes on governance, funding, human resources and academic matters as well the appropriate forms of accountability in relation to autonomy and freedom.

The conference programme included plenary sessions, facilitated high level discussions, a selection of presentations, as well as more interactive forms of engaging conference participants at all levels throughout the conference.

  • Thursday 6 April 2017

    12.30 - 13.30
    Conference opening

    Rolf Tarrach, President, European University Association
    Dag Rune Olsen, Rector, University of Bergen, Norway
    Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, Minister of Education and Research, Norway

    14.30 - 16.00
    Plenary I: University Autonomy in Europe

    Antnio Rendas, Rector, NOVA University of Lisbon, Portugal
    Thomas Estermann, Director, Governance, Funding and Public Policy Development, European University Association
    Chair: Lesley Wilson, Secretary General, European University Association

    16.30 - 18.00
    Breakout Session I – Working groups

    1. Organisational autonomy (session intended for institutional leadership only) 
    Facilitator: Mari Sundli Tveit, Rector, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway and Board member, European University Association

    2. Financial autonomy Sports Hall, Student Centre
    Facilitator: Stefano Paleari, former Rector, University of Bergamo, Italy and Board member, European University Association

    3. Staffing autonomy Seminar Room E, Student Centre
    Facilitator: Martine Rahier, former Rector, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland and Vice-President, European University Association

    4. Academic autonomy Auditorium, Student Centre
    Facilitator: Jean Chambaz, President, University Pierre and Marie Curie, France and Board member, European University Association

  • Friday 7 April 2017

    09.00 - 10.30
    Breakout Session II – Presentation of case studies

    1. Organisational autonomy
    Josep M. Garrell i Guiu, Rector, Ramon Llull University, Spain
    Jaak Aaviksoo, Rector, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia
    Chair: Curt Rice, Rector, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Norway

    2. Financial autonomy
    Cristina Messa, Rector, University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy
    Michael Hengartner, President, swissuniversities and Rector, University of Zurich, Switzerland
    Chair: Liisa Laakso, Rector, University of Tampere, Finland

    3. Staffing autonomy
    Andrew J. Deeks, President, University College Dublin, Ireland
    Stephen Hwang, Vice-Chancellor, Halmstad University, Sweden
    Chair: Luciana Vaccaro, Rector, University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland, Switzerland

    4. Academic autonomy
    Friedrich Faulhammer, Rector, Danube University Krems, Austria
    Marek Šmid, Rector, University of Trnava, Slovakia
    Chair: Glenn Burgess, Acting Vice-Chancellor, University of Hull, United Kingdom

    11.00 - 12.30
    Plenary II: Panel discussion on autonomy and academic freedom

    Agneta Bladh, Vice-President, Magna Charta Observatory, Italy
    Lea Meister, President, European Students Union, Belgium
    Marit Egner, Member of the Steering Committee for Scholars at Risk Network, Norway Section
    Facilitator: Sybille Reichert, Director, Reichert Consulting for Higher Education, Germany

    12.30 - 13.00
    Conference Closing

    Rolf Tarrach, President, European University Association

    14.00 - 15.30
    EUA Hot Topic Session

    Barbara Moser Mercer, Director, InZone, University of Geneva, Switzerland
    Helena Lindholm, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
    Chair: Michael Gaebel, Director, Higher Education Policy, European University Association

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