Mourning for the terror attack victims at Kabul University

3.11.2020 A university has once again been the target of a terror attack. On behalf of its member universities, the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) unequivocally condemns yesterday’s attack on Kabul University, during which 22 university members were killed and the same number injured according to media reports. “Attacks on universities and their members are always also attacks on academic freedom and free thinking. The aim of these attacks is to undo the achievements of Afghanistan’s civil development,” says HRK President Prof Dr Peter-André Alt. “Our thoughts are with the victims of the terror attack and we express our deepest sympathy to their families and the members of the university.” Kabul University, Afghanistan’s oldest university, has played an active part in the ongoing process of rebuilding the country following the end of the civil war and Taliban rule. German universities cooperate closely with the university – and some of them have done so for decades.

German Rectors’ Conference concerned about members of Belarusian universities

2.11.2020 The German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) fully endorses the Appeal of the European University Association (EUA) and the European Students’ Union (ESU) published today. “The recent threats made by Aleksandr Lukashenko against students and teaching staff of Belarusian universities who participated in the protests opposing the continuation of his presidency are very alarming,” says HRK President Prof Dr Peter-André Alt. “They put Belarusian university members and the academic freedom of the country’s universities and academic institutions at great risk. The German Rectors’ Conference appeals to its member universities and partners in Germany and abroad to openly express their solidarity with the university members in Belarus who protested peacefully.”

Appeal to the Hungarian government to lift further restrictions on university autonomy

15.9.2020 Together with five other National Rectors' Conferences of the Universities for Enlightenment network, the HRK declared its solidarity with the students and teaching staff of the University of Theatre and Film in Budapest. University members are protesting against the establishment of an external council to which the Hungarian government has transferred administrative powers and removed the previous management. The six Rectors' Conferences from Austria (uniko and FHK), the Czech Republic (CRC), Germany (HRK), Poland (KRASP) and Slovenia (RKRS) see the Hungarian government's action as a further violation of academic freedom and as an encroachment on the autonomy of higher education institutions in Hungary, Already in 2019, the Central European University (CEU) had to partially relocate to Austria and the autonomy of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences was drastically curtailed. The Rectors' Conferences appeal to the Hungarian government to restore the full autonomy of the University of Theatre and Film. Read more

Culture of debate in Germany and the USA

24.6.2020 Around 200 spectators followed the virtual event on the culture of discussion at universities, to which the HRK and the University of Chicago had issued invitations. Even though the limits of free speech on campus were set differently by the discussants from the USA and Germany, there was agreement that freedom of speech is an indispensable core component of university culture that must be protected. In her lecture "Debate and Democracy: Universities Today", Professor Susanne Baer, Judge of the Federal Constitutional Court, also emphasised the responsibility of universities to society as a whole. The recording of the event is available online.

Shifting political culture threatens academic freedom

28.8.2019 In recent years, populism, nationalism and new forms of aggressive escalation have been exerting a growing influence on political culture in the West. Fundamental values of liberal democracy such as freedom of expression and tolerance are coming under attack. The consequences of this radicalisation on science in Germany and the USA was the focus of a two-day event held at the Thomas Mann House in Los Angeles. More

Rectors' Conferences appeal to the Hungarian Government

19.7.2019 The Rectors' Conferences of Austria, Germany and Poland are concerned about the new law which is to restructure the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The measures enable direct state control, cut the operational budget and thus threaten institutional autonomy and academic freedom. This practice violates internationally accepted principles of academic freedom and self-government of academic institutions. It undermines Hungarian basic research and endangers Hungary's strong international research partnerships. The government's intervention represents a clear break with the principles of a democratic Europe, of which academic freedom is an essential part. Read more

Living Values: Toolbox for discussion on basic values

18.9.2018 The new Living Values project of the Magna Charta Observatory provides universities with an online toolkit that can be used to initiate university-internal discussion processes on their basic institutional values. The project is being launched to mark the 30th anniversary of the Magna Charta Universitatum, which has now been signed by almost 900 universities in over 80 countries, including 37 German universities to date. It contains the commitment to academic freedom and institutional autonomy as guidelines for the signatories' institutional self-concept and governance.