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Global campaign for academic freedom

Public universities like UUM must remain neutral

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In light of worrying global threats, the Malaysian Academic Movement (Gerak) affirms the critical importance of academic freedom for advancing and disseminating knowledge

On 21-26 July this year, over 1,400 educators and unionists from schools and institutions of higher education across the globe gathered at the Eighth Education International World Congress held in Bangkok, Thailand.

What was evident in all the congress deliberations is that, there have been many threats to academic freedom in recent years including state interference and repression, and pressures arising from commercialisation, privatisation, and managerialism, as reported by members of Education International worldwide.

In addition, the now-common practice of hiring academic staff on a contract basis was seen by almost all participants as a threat to the progression of scholars up the academic ladder. This is especially true of new and young academics.

At the national level, Gerak is deeply concerned with these developments. We see similar strategies being employed in Malaysian institutions of higher education and feel there is a need to push back.

Like the other members of the Education International congress, Gerak affirms the critical importance of academic freedom for advancing and disseminating knowledge.

Indeed, academic freedom strengthens democracy and contributes to the common good of societies, as outlined by the 1997 Unesco Recommendation Concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel.

At the international level, it is clear that there is a need to intensify campaigns focusing on higher education and research, in particular those focusing on defending academic freedoms and developing partnerships with other international trade union organisations and NGOs.

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Gerak believes that this is also crucial at the local level, especially in engaging with other local teachers’ and academic unions.

We must work together with local and international organisations. We must develop a pedagogic alternative that will liberate not only our minds but also our society. At a time when greed and the destruction of our world seems imminent, doing less is not an option.

Gerak executive committee

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