Around the world, higher education communities are overwhelmed by frequent attacks on scholars, students, staff, and their institutions. State and non-state actors, including armed militant and extremist groups, police and military forces, government authorities, off-campus groups, and even members of higher education communities, among others, carry out these attacks, which often result in deaths, injuries, and deprivations of liberty. Beyond their harm to the individuals and institutions directly targeted, these attacks undermine entire higher education systems, by impairing the quality of teaching, research, and discourse on campus and constricting society’s space to think, question, and share ideas. Ultimately, they impact all of us, by damaging higher education’s unique capacity to drive the social, political, cultural, and economic development from which we all benefit.

Through its Academic Freedom Monitoring Project, Scholars at Risk (SAR) responds to these attacks by identifying and tracking key incidents, with the aim of protecting vulnerable individuals, raising awareness, encouraging accountability, and promoting dialogue and understanding that can help prevent future threats. Since 2015, SAR has been publishing Free to Think, a series of annual reports analyzing attacks on higher education communities around the world.

Free to Think 2021 documents 332 attacks on higher education communities in 65 countries and territories. This year was marked by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed more than five million lives. For higher education, the pandemic continued to disrupt academic activity, keeping many institutions in remote states of operation and suspending most academic travel. For scholars and students, the pandemic also continued to raise questions, concerns, and criticisms about state responses to public health crises, government accountability, and societal inequities. Scholars and students took on these issues in the classroom and more public venues, in-person and online, asserting their academic freedom and their rights to freedoms of expression and assembly. They also responded to acute and more long-standing political conflicts, from Myanmar’s coup to the steady erosion of human rights in Turkey, demanding civilian led government and the protection of fundamental freedoms. Frequently, however, individuals and groups opposed to their questions and ideas sought to silence them.

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L’Enseignement Supérieur français est-il vraiment accessible à toutes et tous, sans discrimination ? Quels sont les impacts de la privatisation croissante de l’Enseignement Supérieur sur le droit à l'accès à l’enseignement supérieur et à un enseignement de qualité pour toutes et tous ? 

Le présent document se focalisant sur l’impact des inégalités en fonction du lieu de résidence des étudiant·e·s, des coûts indirects des études et de la privatisation dans la réalisation du droit à l’Enseignement Supérieur en France, il illustre les défis liés à la réalisation du droit à l’Enseignement Supérieur, y compris pour un pays comme la France, qui pourrait, a priori, être considéré comme un exemple.  Un éclairage est fait sur les obligations juridiques de la France et ses éventuels manquements, notamment au regard du financement de l’Enseignement Supérieur.

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Is French Higher Education truly accessible to all, without any discrimination? What are the impacts of the privatization of Higher Education on the right to equal access to Higher Education and quality education for all?

Focusing on the impacts of inequalities based on place of residence, indirect study costs and privatization on the implementation of the right to Higher Education in France, this document illustrates the challenges related to the realization of the right to higher education. Overcoming these hurdles for a country like France could, a priori, be held up as an example to others.  Lastly, this report highlights France’s legally binding obligations and potential infringements, especially with regard to its role in financing the Higher Education system.

 

FRANÇAIS

En el presente informe, el Relator Especial sobre la extrema pobreza y los derechos humanos, Olivier De Schutter, observa que a los niños nacidos en familias desfavorecidas se les niega la igualdad de oportunidades: sus posibilidades de alcanzar un nivel de vida decente en la edad adulta disminuyen considerablemente por el mero hecho de que sus padres sean pobres. El Relator Especial examina los canales a través de los cuales se perpetúa la pobreza, en los ámbitos de la salud, la vivienda, la educación y el empleo.

El propio aumento de las desigualdades es un factor importante: cuanto más desiguales son las sociedades, menos permiten la movilidad social, y las desigualdades de riq ueza son especialmente corrosivas en ese sentido. Acabar con los círculos viciosos de la pobreza está a nuestro alcance. Las inversiones en educación y atención a la primera infancia, la educación inclusiva, la provisión de una renta básica universal para los jóvenes, combinada con una mayor fiscalidad de las herencias, y la prohibición de la discriminación por motivos de desventaja socioeconómica son fundamentales para romper los ciclos que perpetúan la pobreza. Las personas en situación de pobreza se enfrentan a una discriminación sistémica en sociedades que siguen estando profundamente segregadas por la riqueza: esto exige remedios sistémicos para superar las divisiones heredadas.

 

ENGLISH  FRANÇAIS

This report, presented to the 76th session of the General Assembly in October 2021, examines the channels through which poverty is perpetuated, in the areas of health, housing, education and employment. The growth of inequalities itself is an important contributing factor: the more unequal societies are, the less they allow for social mobility. The report argues that ending the vicious cycles of poverty is within reach. Investments in early childhood education and care, inclusive education, the provision of a universal basic income for young people combined with an increased taxation of inheritance, and the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of socioeconomic disadvantage are key to breaking the cycles that perpetuate poverty. People in poverty face systemic discrimination in societies that remain deeply segregated by wealth: this calls for systemic remedies to overcome inherited divisions.

It features sections on the right to education in relation to poverty, including the right to early childhood care and education, and higher education. 

 

ESPAÑOL   FRANÇAIS

 

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Higher education is too often dissociated from the right to education. In many countries tuition fees are on the rise, and only the privileged have access to, or succeed in completing, higher education, making it difficult to argue that there is an actual right to higher education to be enforced. However, international human rights law is clear: the right to education includes the obligation of states to ensure that higher education is made accessible to all based on capacity.

In addition, states have an obligation to progressively introduce free higher education, an obligation which is yet to be implemented globally. Confronted with drastic changes worldwide in terms of rising inequalities, human movement, growing digitalization and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is high time to clarify existing obligations as well as what aspects of the right to higher education might require further explanation considering new contexts and challenges.

This publication aims to help guide policy-makers, civil society and the international education community, to fully enforce the right to higher education and ensure that the human-rights based approach is placed at the heart of the higher education debate.