Joint statement on constitutional protection for the freedom of higher education

 Free academia, a free judiciary and a free press are all cornerstones of the preservation of democracy and the protection of human rights.

Neither current political opinion nor short-term commercial interests should define the research or teaching that takes place at our higher education institutions. Both people in power and the general public need to understand, accept and protect the principle that a free and just society needs higher education and research to be forums for the free exchange of thoughts and ideas.

In order to reinforce democracy, the freedom of education and the freedom of research need to be protected by the constitution. A change needs to be implemented to strengthen the general principle of academic freedom that was recently incorporated into the Higher Education Act (Chapter 1, Section 6).

To safeguard academic freedom and democracy in the long-term, the Swedish National Union of Students (SFS), the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions (SUHF) and the Swedish Association of University Teachers and Researchers (SULF) have agreed to work together with the aim of introducing an amendment to the constitution that will secure academic freedom in all aspects of the work of higher education institutions.

Proposed amendment to the Instrument of Government

The Instrument of Government (Regeringsformen) is one of Sweden’s four constitutional laws that regulate the Swedish political system, along with the Freedom of the Press Act, the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression and the Act of Succession. Together, these laws constitute a basic framework that stands above other laws and regulation. The Instrument of Government, which currently includes provisions stipulating that the state is to ensure the existence of higher education and that freedom of research is protected (Chapter 2, Section 18), should be amended to include the following:

a. A general principle on academic freedom, for example: “Academic freedom is to be safeguarded and promoted.”

b. A provision to protect higher education, for example: “Freedom of research and higher education is protected according to provisions issued by law.” The first chapter of the Higher Education Act should then also be amended to include a stipulation that the content and working methods of higher education may be chosen freely.

Linn Svärd, President of SFS, the Swedish National Union of Students
Astrid Söderbergh Widding, Chair of SUHF, the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions
Sanna Wolk, President of SULF, the Swedish Association of University Teachers and Researchers

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