Defending Central European University and Academic Freedom: Elements of an Initial Response

Editor’s note: this guest entry, also posted on Inside Higher Ed, has been kindly developed by Sejal Parmar, Assistant Professor at the Department of Legal Studies and a core faculty member of the Center for Media, Data and Society at the School of Public Policy at the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest. The photographs are (c) Daniel Vegel, Zoltan Tuba / CEU. Dr. Parmar was previously Senior Legal Officer at ARTICLE 19. She has also been a postdoctoral fellow at New York University Law School and a visiting scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School. Her main field of expertise and research is international and European human rights law, particularly on freedom of expression. Dr. Parmar’s entry provides us with a number of important insights on how and why CEU is defending itself after being dragged into an ideological struggle not of the university’s making, as well as reminding us that what happens to CEU should matter to everyone concerned about the future of higher education, knowledge production, and human rights. Kris Olds


Defending Central European University and Academic Freedom: Elements of an Initial Response

Sejal Parmar, Central European University

CEU's new

CEU’s new “N15” building in Nádros street.

The Central European University (“CEU”) “in a single week has become the most important global symbol of academic freedom in the world.” So observed CEU’s President and Rector Michael Ignatieff on 4 April, the day amendments to Hungary’s Act on National Higher Education (“Lex CEU”), which were only tabled on 28 March, were adopted by the Hungarian Parliament. Signed into law by Hungary’s President just a week later, on 10 April, these amendments “make it impossible for the University to continue its operations as an institution of higher education in Budapest, CEU’s home for 25 years.” CEU’s fight to remain “at home” has prompted a tsunami of statements from across the world and a spectacular popular movement, mobilising some of the largest demonstrations the country has seen since the fall of communism; as many as 80,000 people marched in Budapest on 9 April. CEU has been propelled into the global limelight through numerous opinion pieces, editorials, academic blogs, papers, social media posts and the hashtag #IstandwithCEU. Ironically, the university, which hosted the “Frontiers of Democracy” initiative in recent years and has long offered courses on international human rights advocacy, has necessarily been galvanised into taking on the forces of “illiberal democracy” for the sake of its own freedom.

An emblem and catalyst

Under the terms of Lex CEU, CEU is required to offer academic programmes in New York at pointless and unbearable financial cost. CEU currently awards both Hungarian and American accredited degrees, without having a campus in the US, thanks to its dual legal identity and accreditation in New York as “CEU”, and in Hungary as “Közép-európai Egyetem” (“KEE”). Contesting the legislation as an attack on its academic freedom and institutional autonomy, CEU is currently pursuing “all legal remedies” whilst calling on the government to show “mutual good will” by initiating negotiations towards finding a “lawful and long-term solution that would ensure [the university’s] academic freedom and institutional integrity.”

The attack on CEU’s freedom as a university may be unprecedented in the history of the EU, but it is not unique. Just in the past year, Russian authorities have revoked the license of the European University in St Petersburg, the Turkish government has forced the shutdown of fifteen institutions after the failed July 2016 coup attempt, and campuses in Pakistan and Afghanistan have been subjected to violent attacks, resulting in scores of deaths. As a legislative assault on a Hungarian institution of critical inquiry and “public watchdog”, it is also not unique and may have even been predicted. It is part of a broader political offensive on democratic institutions by Hungary’s Fidesz government, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, which has over the years targeted independent media, the Constitutional Court and foreign-funded NGOs, whilst treating “the very concept [of] human rights as a sort of public enemy”. Little wonder that Timothy Garton Ash has urged that Europe’s “appeasement [of Hungary] has to stop”.

CEU’s case exposes both the erosion of academic freedom around the world, and deepening challenges to democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Hungary and in the EU generally. It should, accordingly, catalyse a deeper interest in threats to academic freedom – which is protected by Article 19 ICCPR, Articles 15 and 13 ICESCR, Article 10 ECHR and Article 13 EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – both intrinsically and as manifestations of the shrinking of civic space. Until now, this fundamental freedom has been neglected by most intergovernmental bodies, NGOs and scholars, for whom it might have seemed a marginal or esoteric subject.

Elements of an evolving response

CEU’s “open society” mission and its “densely international” community make it distinctive. A private and independent institution, CEU derives its funding from a founding endowment, philanthropic gifts, research grants and tuition income. Nonetheless, its response to Lex CEU may be instructive on how a university can defend its own academic freedom today. The strength of CEU’s response so far, led by the Rector and the specially constituted “Response Team”, has rested on four simple elements.

Leadership and rhetoric

First and foremost, CEU’s leadership has been calm, resolute and tireless throughout this episode, inspiring great institutional unity, as well as pride and gratitude, across the CEU community. Firmly and eloquently, the Rector has reiterated: “Under all circumstances, CEU will continue its operations,” and, “Budapest is our home … [we] belong here.” Leon Botstein, the wizardlike Chairman of the Board of Trustees and President of Bard College, has promised: “Whatever it takes will be done … we will prevail.” Such words have instilled confidence within CEU, whilst simultaneously reinforcing the university’s ties to Budapest.


CEU’s position has been consistent and clear, and effectively communicated in various ways. In the spirit of transparency, CEU’s senior administration have held regular community forums and press conferences, which have been broadcast live and uploaded onto the university’s You Tube channel. The Rector has given high-profile interviews to international and Hungarian media, and the dedicated CEU site has been regularly updated with detailed information in both English and Hungarian. An official Twitter handle, @StandwithCEU, has been established and a Thunderclap is planned. The Response Team has also quickly refuted false statements concerning the legislation and CEU, including misleading references to CEU as “the Soros university” or “George Soros’s university” by the government and the media. CEU’s position has been conveyed “in a highly sophisticated, professional, and honest way,” setting “the crisis ‘comms’ standard universities worldwide should strive to match,” as Kris Olds, an expert on global higher education put it.

Constitutional challenge

tiered classroom, CEU Business School classCEU has quickly set forth a strong legal case contesting the constitutional validity of Lex CEU on both substantive and procedural grounds. The most important claim is that the legislation violates the freedom of academic activities, the freedom of scientific research, learning and teaching, the right to education and the autonomy of higher education institutions, as protected by Hungary’s Fundamental Law. CEU also argues that Lex CEU targets and discriminates against foreign higher education institutions in general, by requiring them to provide programmes in their state of origin, and CEU in particular, by making it impossible for KEE to take over the programmes of CEU and by requiring CEU to change its name; and that it also provides insufficient time for compliance by requiring a binding international agreement between Hungary and the US to be completed within six months of the publication of the law and an agreement between Hungary and the State of New York to be concluded by 1 January 2018.

Political and public support

CEU has gathered and been heartened by support from an astonishing array of individuals and organisations – a testament to the networks and energy of its community, and its reputation. In Hungary, this has included backing from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences; Eötvös Loránd, Corvinus and Andrássy universities; the Ombudsman for educational rights; and former President Solyom. Pledges of solidarity have come from international academia, including: the heads of leading universities in North America and Europe; the International Association of Universities; and many Nobel laureates. Key strategic players have expressed their support and concern about Lex CEU, notably: two senior State Department officials, twelve members of Congress and a former New York governor; European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans, and European Commissioners Moedas and Navracsics; as well as President Steinmeier of Germany, and France’s Secretary of State for European Affairs, Harlem Desir. Statements urging Hungary to reconsider the legislation have been issued by: former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan; the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, endorsed by two other Special Procedures; the Directors of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the EU Fundamental Rights Agency; and leading NGOs, including Human Rights Watch, Freedom House and Scholars at Risk. Hundreds of writers and thousands of private individuals have sent messages of support, while tens of thousands have signed an online petition to “save” CEU.


CEU's new This episode has already been defining moment for CEU as a community and institution, for it has laid bare its resilience and adeptness, its rootedness in Hungarian society, and its global clout. It may also be a turning point in the fortunes of the Fidesz government, whose attempt to attract votes in advance of the 2018 elections by targeting CEU appear to be grossly misjudged. The university has proven itself to be the government’s most formidable, albeit reluctant, adversary within Hungary yet, thanks to the above-mentioned elements and mass demonstrations. CEU’s case clearly presents an critical test for the EU in showing whether it can meaningfully address the flouting of its common values within an existing Member State: a legal assessment is being carried out by the European Commission; the European Parliament debates the situation on 26 April; and the European Council, under Article 7 TEU, wields the ultimate power to sanction Hungary. The European Peoples’ Party can also expel Fidesz from its ranks, as commentators have argued it should. Given the problems of the Constitutional Court, powerful players in Brussels and Washington DC are now being counted upon. On what terms CEU “prevails” – as it will eventually, I have no doubt – is vitally important for the university. Yet it will also matter enormously as an example and precedent for others, above all academic institutions under the spectre of intimidation and closure around the world.



Central European University’s Complicated Legal Geographies

Please note that an edited version of this is available on Inside Higher Ed – this version is more easily shared and printed, if so desired.


As has been reported widely, including in Inside Higher Ed, Central European University (CEU) (registered officially under the names Central European University and Közép-európai Egyetem, KEE) is facing some major challenges regarding its future existence. The 4 April 2017 legislative move by the government led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was widely condemned by CEU, as well as by numerous parties across Europe and North America. As the European University Association, with 850 members across 47 countries (serving 17 million students), put it in a press release:

04 April 2017
EUA is extremely shocked and deeply concerned by the decision taken on 4 April 2017 by the Hungarian Parliament to adopt the recently proposed amendments to the Hungarian Education Law, targeting the Central European University.
The bill was passed apparently without taking into consideration the many statements of support from politicians and academics underlining the important achievements of the Central European University in the past 25 years.
Should this amendment be signed off in law, it will make further operations of the CEU in Hungary almost impossible. CEU is a long-standing EUA member and the Association stands by its colleagues and friends, willing to help them in any way as this process moves forward.
In Budapest, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of the Embassy of the United States to Budapest, David Kostelancik, issued the following statement:

The United States is disappointed by the accelerated passage of legislation targeting Central European University, despite the serious concerns raised by the United States, by hundreds of local and international organizations and institutions, and by thousands of Hungarians who value academic freedom and the many important contributions by Central European University to Hungary.

The Central European University is a successful and prestigious American-Hungarian institution and has been an important component of the U.S.-Hungarian relationship for 26 years.  The United States will continue to advocate for its independence and unhindered operation in Hungary.

In the United States, Leon Botstein (President, Bard College), Carol Christ (Provost and Chancellor-designate, University of California at Berkeley) & Jonathan Cole, Professor and former Provost, Columbia University) had this to say in the Washington Post:

If we allow CEU to be controlled exclusively by the Hungarian government and lose its international status and autonomy, all universities in Hungary will suffer. For this to take place within the European Union is unthinkable. It will set a precedent that will prevent higher education from flourishing. Take away a university’s right to select its students and the most qualified faculty, contest the received wisdom of our time, be a critical voice against existing social and economic arrangements, and you no longer have a free university in a democratic society. The purging of the basic features of academic freedom at CEU would create a wasteland out of a fertile intellectual soil. Hungary would no longer attract great faculty minds, nor would exceptional students from around the world want to come to Hungary to learn. There is therefore much to be lost if CEU is forced to defend academic principles of freedom by becoming a university in exile.

The legislation proposed by the Orban government has implications far beyond Hungary. Governments with authoritarian tendencies that stoke intolerant nationalist sentiments tighten their grip by repressing the freedom of universities, suppressing a press committed to free expression and violating the autonomy of its legal systems. Many of us have been there before — Europe under fascism, the United States during the McCarthy period.

It’s worth noting that Cole is author of The Great American University: Its Rise To Preeminence, Its Indispensable National Role, Why It Must Be Protected (Public Affairs, 2009), one of the seminal texts about state-society-economy conditions and associated policies and programs that enabled U.S. universities to become world-class producers of scaleable high-impact knowledge.
CEU itself released a series of detailed responses in rapid fashion, while doing an exemplary job of disseminating their views in two languages (Hungarian and English) in a highly sophisticated, professional, and honest way. [as a close observer of how universities communicate amidst crises, I think CEU has now set the crisis ‘comms’ standard universities worldwide should strive to match – it will be difficult, I assure you!]
Reactions to the legislative news are still rippling across Hungary, Europe, the United States (including because the CEU is accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education and holds an “absolute charter” from the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York, “for and on behalf of the New York State Education Department)”, and North America more broadly (given that the CEU president equivalent is Michael Ignatieff, a well know Canadian public intellectual and former candidate for prime minister in 2011).
The ‘what’s next’ stage for CEU is filled with considerable uncertainty. Will this legislation be vetoed like those who filled the streets late on 4 April hope?
Or will CEU be forced to close given that operating conditions under this new legislation generate some very challenging demands and discriminatory provisions, as designed by a government antagonistic to all things associated with George Soros (CEU’s founder). These demands and discriminatory provisions include:
  1. Violation of the rules on the legislative process
  2. Violation of the freedom of academic research, studies and education
  3. New requirement to conclude a binding international agreement
  4. New requirement for foreign higher education institutions to provide higher education programs in their country of origin
  5. New provision terminating the current structure of cooperation between the US (CEU) and the Hungarian university (Közép-európai Egyetem)
  6. New provision requiring CEU to change its name
  7. Insufficient time ensured by the law to prepare for compliance with its new provisions
Central European University’s Complicated Legal Geographies
Several of the above demands and provisions unsettle, deeply, CEU’s place in the national, regional (European) and global higher education landscapes. Items 3-7, for example, will require engagement between the national governments in Hungary and the USA via a formal “binding international agreement,” which will defacto provide the Hungarian Government the right to approve or rescind the agreement with little to no justification. The Hungarian Government will also require international universities (in this case the CEU) to open a branch campus in “their country of origin” (the United States in the CEU case). Finally, the new legislation creates conditions where the Hungarian Government will force the termination of “license-programs” for higher education institutions having their seat in OECD vs member states (i.e. the United States). As CEU put it to Hungary’s Members of Parliament on 3 April:
KEE, the Hungarian university, could no longer deliver the programs of the American university as it is allowed to do under Section 77 (4) of the HEA, as Hungarian universities could only deliver programs of European universities and not of countries from the OECD. Based on this current Section 77 (4) of the HEA, CEU operates in Hungary through the Hungarian University and the Hungarian University issues the CEU’s (U.S.) diplomas on behalf of CEU. The proposed new Section 77 (4) does not include the OECD countries (such as the United States of America) anymore. Consequently CEU would not be able to offer U.S. academic programs through KEE.
Given the above, it’s no surprise the #IstandwithCEU Twitter hashtag has gone global apart from in Murdoch papers: an innovative and highly ranked university’s future is at serious risk. And why? Because PM Orbán’s government has successfully reworked and made far harsher the legal geographies that CEU needs to navigate to exist, let alone thrive. The Government has upgraded it’s governing power over CEU’s operating conditions, thereby reducing the university’s autonomy, as well as making its capacity to succeed subject to many more factors, decision-makers, and structural contexts (including demand for educational services in the deeply saturated NY/US higher education market).
The power-politics dimension of these reworked legal geographies is worth considering. As Renáta Uitz, Chair of the Comparative Constitutional Law Program,of CEU put it in Verfassungsblog (5 April):

As for the conditions themselves, the idea that foreign universities can only operate in Hungary based on an international agreement deserves special attention. This condition in and of itself introduces the sovereign to the picture with its might and doubles its weight. It is not only that the sovereign sets a condition, but it also takes the sovereign’s benevolence for a foreign university to be able to meet this condition. If the Hungarian government were not in the mood to compromise with a foreign government on the principles of establishing a university, this statutory condition cannot be met by the organization to which it applies.

Furthermore, a last minute rider to the bill further specified this requirement: for federal entities the Hungarian government is expected to conclude an international agreement with the federal unit in which the university had been accredited, based on the prior approval of the respective federal government. Now, in case such a legal construct (i.e. a state-level treaty with prior federal consent) does not exist in the foreign jurisdiction in question, the condition for the operation of a foreign university set by Hungarian law simply cannot be met. [my emphasis]

The challenges CEU faces have multiplied in two weeks to include those of political, fiscal, regulatory, organizational, and mission-related natures. And while CEU has been, as noted above, very assertive in analyzing and communicating about these challenges, I’d like to leave readers of this blog entry with several questions to ponder.

First, what are European universities, funding councils, organizations (incl the EU), and national political leaders, really doing to help resolve this matter. I’ve been following this debate since it erupted in late March, and have been struck by the relatively more assertive (and immediate) public representations made by the US and Canadian governments, including Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of the Embassy of the United States to Budapest David Kostelancik.

There are clear signs that EU representatives and key national political leaders (esp Chancellor Angela Merkel) are finally speaking up. But given that the Hungarian Ambassador to Washington is being recalled over her handling of the communications side of this higher education bill, that, according to the Hungarian Government:

“The election of the Trump administration means that Hungarian diplomats must pursue new political and economic duties,” Tamás Menczer, the foreign ministry’s press officer, told Magyar Hírlap.

and that David Kostelancik is an Obama-era appointment, time is tight to put pressure on and shape the bilateral Hungary-US government relationship about this issue (recognizing, though, that US states vs the federal government have authority over higher education institutions). In short, what European-scale solutions exist to resolve this crisis? Enacting Article 7 of the European Union Treaty, perhaps given the attack on CEU but also in association with other human rights related transgressions?

Second, what will supportive people, programs, departments, universities, organizations do to help support CEU once the flurry of news about this crisis recedes from view, as it will. As we’ve learned here in Wisconsin, higher education-related crises generate plenty of good will at first (people associated with universities are easily stirred, after all), though months and years later the petitions and letters are but distant memories; mere data for someone’s PhD dissertation, a New York Times Magazine article (with spectacular photos of Budapest slipped in), etc.

Third, and on a related note, while the hope is that this harsh legislation will be revoked, what will happen if it is not? Plenty of people on social media platforms have flagged attempts to welcome CEU to other cities in Eastern Europe (e.g., Prague). But, instead, are any universities in the US thinking about how they might be able to help CEU establish, quickly, a US-based branch campus? Bridging typically takes 1-2 years and it takes a full 4-5 years to establish a purpose-built campus. For example, are relevant National Resource Centers (NRCs) based at US universities discussing this issue? While NRC staff and faculty are, no doubt, consumed with the Trump budget proposal, including developing provisional lay-off plans if things fall apart this year, there may be a creative way to host a CEU campus if the future of Central European University (and Közép-európai Egyetem) depends upon it. Indeed, it might be a vehicle to develop a win-win solution in the era of aggressive nationalism, Orbán/Trump style.

Kris Olds

The UK University-Territory Relationship in a Post-Brexit World

This entry is also available via Inside Higher Ed in a format more amenable for sharing or printing.


Post-EU Referendum turmoil in the UK (and the EU) continues, for all sorts of reasons, but soon more serious and sustained assessment of the post-Brexit landscape for UK universities will occur. This blog entry is an exercise in thinking future-forward, brainstorming-fashion (so all caveats apply!), about one possible risk-reducing option.

In such a context here is the question to consider: is an Oxbridge-Lille (a joint Cambridge-Oxford university) or equivalent (e.g., Imperial College-Lille; Birmingham-Nottingham-Warwick-Lille) campus in the Eurostar hub city of Lille an institutional-organizational level option to reduce risk and ensure stable access to EU nationals (including staff and students), creative UK staff with EU citizenship dreams (for themselves, and their children should they have any), EU research monies, EU-funded research infrastructures, and relevant EU policy-making fora and bodies? Or might the Euro-UK equivalent of Singapore’s Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE), in a similar location, be a creative post-Brexit option? Or might an equivalent of Cornell Tech NYC be worth creating in European higher education and research space?

In other words, is it time for the UK university-territory relationship to be reconsidered, or at least debated, vs simply waiting and seeing what might emerge over the next 2-4 years via the ‘leadership’ of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, et al?


The implications of ‘Brexit’ for UK universities are many, hence their leaderships’ unified argument and vigorous engagement in the pre-EU Referendum campaign. We heard, for example, about the over-dependence of UK universities upon EU students and staff, and the critical role of EU research monies (especially via Horizon 2020 and the European Research Council) in supporting one of the most research-active higher education systems in the world.

A glance at any of the backgrounders below makes a patently obvious point – the UK is deeply integrated into the European Union, the European Research Area (ERA) and the European Higher Education Research Area (EHEA), both formally and informally:

For example 46,230 postgraduate students and 78,435 undergraduates originating from the European Union (excluding the UK) studied in the UK in 2014-15 according to WonkHE, making up 5.5% of the total student population. This is a significant and relatively stable stream of non-UK students at the undergraduate level, as is evident in this figure from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA):


Further to the human mobility theme, “in 2012–13, 27,147 EU students came to study or work (train/teach) in the UK with an Erasmus grant” while non-UK EU staff now make up 15% of the UK’s academic workforce (see ‘The European Union’s contribution to UK higher education‘). On the research side, “UK national public investment into science is complemented by an additional 10% of funds (and rising from the EU)” with EU monies the “second largest single funding source” in 3 out of the 4 Research Excellence Framework (REF) panels according to Scientists for EU (November 2015):


Needless to say, UK university-based researchers also participate in numerous research consortia coordinated out of continental European universities, as well as exercise leadership at multiple scales in the EU-supported research and teaching policies, programs and projects.
As noted in many of these documents, the indirect impacts of human mobility to the UK, and EU research support, are plentiful too. For example Iain Wright, chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee and Labour MP for Hartlepool, recently wrote that EU research support “generates more than 19,000 jobs across the UK and contributes more than £1bn in additional value added to our country’s economy.” And the geographically-specific impacts are significant for key UK cities received spillover effects via concentrated flows of these monies (2007-2015):


Given that service exports (including education) generate localized expenditures (e.g., housing, food, entertainment) expenditures related to students from non-UK EU countries in the UK was estimated to “generate £3.7 billion for the UK economy and support over 34,000 British jobs.” All in all, the UK is an overall beneficiary when it comes to EU-related research money and EU-sourced or supported student and staff mobility. And this does not even begin to factor in the positive intellectual impacts of enhanced cooperation between UK and other EU universities, a phenomenon discussed in some detail by the Royal Society in 2016, and very much evident to US-based collaborations like myself.

Brexit, Transition Politics, & Risk

It is no exaggeration to state that the Leave win in the EU Referendum was a shock to most stakeholders associated with the higher education community in the UK, in other EU nations, and in regional associations (e.g., the European Students’ Union; the European University Association; League of European Research Universities). In short order, major expressions of discontent and concern were expressed in the UK by university associations, individual university leaders, the higher education media (especially Times Higher Education), and individual staff and students. Concerns emerged about the potential loss of research monies (a prediction apparently being brought to life already due to the marginalization of UK researchers from project proposal consortia), the ability of UK universities to guarantee right of residency for the many EU staff they depend upon; difficulties in student recruitment,  access to or possible relocation of EU research infrastructures (broadly defined), and the unleashing of xenophobia that has made many non-UK European researchers and students feel discriminated against and unwelcome. On the last point, part of the issue is that non-UK EU nationals are being effectively being told, via coded language, that they are bargaining chips in what will be multi-year UK-EU negotiations about the human mobility and the free movement of workers.

More broadly, Science and Technology Committee chair Nicola Blackwood told Science Minister Jo Johnson this week: ‘I think this [Brexit] will be make or break for our knowledge economy.’ More specifically, Blackwood said:

Can I … plead with you to make the case within Government, not only that issues such as continued access to Horizon 2020 [a funding scheme] are maintained and collaboration [is maintained] and the right kind of immigration system that benefits our science and higher education sectors are in place, but also that the science and innovation community is at the heart of the exit negotiations, as you’ve been saying is important, because I think this will be make or break for our knowledge economy going forward.

Blackwood raises an important issue, for in a multi-year period of tumultuous change coming up, all subject to political machinations, just how important of a priority will universities be in the big picture? This is a point Martin McQuillan also raised just prior to the referendum vote when he stated:

The chaos created in the intervening years by the gravitational pull of the right wing of the Conservative Party and their UKIP allies will be the legacy of the Cameron and Osborne governments. It is unlikely to be an environment in which our universities will flourish.

The governmental context shifted today, too, for UK “universities are on the move to the Department for Education” from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) which is itself being refashioned into the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (where research matters will be managed in the future). As Mark Leach of WonkHE put it:

Breaking up the family like this will be unpopular with vice chancellors who will now need to lobby two departments on overlapping issues. It also separates universities from the department with responsibility for infrastructure, growth and industry and takes HE policy further away from the industrial policy ‘action’ at home, and limits universities to some of the exposure to Britain’s international trade links that BIS used to pursue.

On the Future of UK universities in a Post-Brexit World

What will be the future of UK universities in a post-Brexit world? Will they all (or the vast majority of them) wait and see what emerges from the negotiations, focusing their lobbying efforts on strategic units, politicians, and officials? Perhaps. There is plenty of uncertainty to factor in, though, as Nick Hillman (Director, The Higher Education Policy Institute) put it in a 5 July 2016 speech to the University of Nottingham’s executive board:

No one knows what is going to happen for certain, so we can argue and act in favour of the future we desire. We can, to coin a phrase, take back control of the argument… We are only now coming to think about all the questions and not all the possible answers are obvious.”

In this section, I’d like to suggest that UK universities take seriously the words of Jo Johnson (Minister of State for Universities and Science) on 13 July 2016 when he stated:

Brexit does not mean that we are becoming insular and inward-looking in any way, but, on the contrary, we are going to be more outward-looking, more open and more globally minded than ever before.

but in a manner that builds upon global regionalisms (including the development of the ERA & the EHEA) that have helped enable the creation of a more resilient and outward-looking higher UK educational and research system over the last decade plus.

Could an ‘outward-looking’ UK university deal with Brexit-related risk, take advantage of progress in developing the EHEA and the ERA, and contribute to refashioning its future structure and identity by creating a new and deeply embedded campus in a nearby (commuting time-wise) Eurostar station city like Lille, France, safely in EU-space? Commercial presence in the EU, to use GATS parlance, would enable a multi-campus model to emerge like the one visualized in the bottom of the figure below.

Version 2: Import Model | Export Model | Academic Joint Venture Model | Partnership, Alliance, & Consortia Model | and Foreign Campus Model

Models for the Globalization of Higher Education

Source: based on Hawawini, G. (2011) The Internationalization of Higher Education Institutions: A Critical Review and a Radical Proposal (November 2011).

In such a model, students and faculty regularly travel between campuses; indeed programs tend to be designed such that components are held in multiple locations. The nodal location also enables the university to leverage these flows. This model is not one associated the creation of offices or small outreach campuses where teaching occurs, with minimal basic research; rather, these campuses broadly replicate the terms and conditions of faculty and staff in the main (origin) campus. Indeed the replication of such employment conditions is required in some contexts (e.g., Singapore) where state largesse, subject to contractual agreements, facilitates the new campus development process.

Imagine, for example, a Lille- or Amsterdam- based version of Cornell Tech in New York City, currently being constructed in New York City and primarily associated with Cornell University and Technion in Israel (photo below courtesy of Cornell Tech):
Campus View from West Loop Road

Campus View from West Loop Road. The Bloomberg Center, Residential Building, The Bridge (listed from left to right) – Credit Kilograph, Weiss Manfredi, and Handel Architects

In a process that began in 2010 (see my Unsettling the University-Territory Relationship via Applied Sciences NYC) a long-term experiment in reconfiguring the university-territory relationship was launched. This initiative is noteworthy from a post-Brexit perspective because it is generative of the formation of deep partnerships between universities from different countries, but in a new & strategically valuable setting. In so doing, partner universities have no choice but to forge deep and relatively trusting relations, thereby going beyond traditional international partnerships that are all too often associated with ghost Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) with little follow-up.
In the case of Cornell Tech, the creation of a partnership node can be opened up, at will, to new partners, while also serving as a prospective site of engagement between Cornell and Technion’s existing partners in the US, Israel, and abroad. This is, indeed, the value of drawing in research-active universities like Technion and Cornell.

Other models also exist, including the Euro-UK equivalent of Singapore’s Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE), an option several of us from US universities (including UW-Madison, MIT, Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon) recently discussed at a workshop on International University Research Ventures: Implications for US Economic Competitiveness and National Security. Most international research university ventures are STEM-related, though given what’s happening in Europe and the broader region, a case could certainly be made for an innovative UK-EU-Other campus that focuses on global challenges/problems including terrorism, climate change, financialization, refugee crises, risk/uncertainty, and the like. In short, an Oxbridge-Lille (or equivalent) campus is in the realm of the possible, potentially leading to educational innovation within the UK and EU irrespective of what Boris and Her Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (David Davis) are able to pull off over the next 2-6 years.

In Conclusion

I was in Copenhagen the week before the EU Referendum vote was held participating in a UNIKE conference regarding University Futures. This event, as well as the EU-funded project it is an outcome of, is an excellent of what UK university engagement in EU research and professional development programming can engender. The network structure of the project brought together UK, continental European, and European Higher Education Area-scale faculty, (post)graduate students , postdocs, and staff to explore various dimensions of universities and the knowledge-based economy. The network also extended into Asia and North America. Compared to many North American events focused on similar topics, this was a relatively cosmopolitan gathering; a sign of how 21st century regionalisms are indeed open regionalisms; they are not closed and inward looking, but instead use the phenomenon of global regionalism to build up capacity of constituent parts to engage globally.

As Anne Corbett recently stated in University World News:

It is not going to be an easy time for higher education. Nothing can be the same. But as the UK higher education world reflects on how it is to continue on the post-Brexit path, it is surely time to take a deep breath and return to fight with renewed energy for the values of European cooperation, as well as the money that has come into the sector from the EU.

In this entry I am arguing UK universities might want to rethink their territorial relationship(s) and consider options for becoming more deeply embedded in EU-space in preparation for a post-Brexit non-EU world. And in doing so UK universities might help stabilize and hopefully further not only their own institutional-organizational development futures, but also contribute to the development of the Europe educational and research space they are unquestionably dependent upon.

There are, no doubt, dozens of challenges (many legal) for why the ideas put forward above might be enormously difficult if not impossible to operationalize, though they’re posed here in the context of recognition that, as Nick Hillman put it last week, “not all the possible answers are obvious.”

Kris Olds (with thanks for input on this topic from numerous colleagues in Belgium, the UK & the USA)









UBC Future Forward

This entry is also available in Insider Higher Ed.


As I outlined back on 9 August 2015 in Inside Higher Ed, the unexpected leadership transition at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in summer 2015 had all the ingredients to become a major crisis. And a ‘barn-burner’ of a crisis has certainly emerged, sad to say. As a concerned alum, I do hope my alma mater can move forward. From my perspective, nearly seven months later (amid a possible vote of non-confidence in the Board of Governors and an ongoing presidential search) it’s worth flagging two key problems, and then three correctional action suggestions.

On Problems

UBCWest3First, if mistakes were made in the handling of the processes in which Professor Gupta was hired, institutionally supported in his first year in the job, and/or resigned, they need to be analyzed and openly communicated. No institution nor key leader is perfect – that’s life. World-class universities sing their praises and own their mistakes. Moving on is more difficult if a consistently defensive posture is adopted by key stakeholders with power, and if important mistakes are not publicly owned. Fortunately, process factors are not typically entangled up in non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).

Second, UBC, including the Board of Governors, needs to publicly commit to becoming a more transparent organization as this seems to be a core theme of various conflicts. If and when the principle of enhanced transparency is committed to, detailed changes need to be devised and outlined in a systematic way. Discourse about transparency is not enough – a strategic plan with deliverables and deadlines is needed. For example, many boards of governors (or equivalent) live stream and then archive all regularly scheduled meetings. Live streaming and archiving important committee meetings is also possible. Err on the side of transparency. And in doing so, use transparency, as many of the world’s best universities do, as a mechanism to enhance engagement with key stakeholders within the organization. Why? Because engagement in a shared governance context improves information flows in all directions, as well as the quality of decisions and associated outcomes. Finally, if a major crisis were to emerge in the near future, take into account this higher education crisis expert’s view: “Our first line for every client is, “Tell the truth, tell it all, tell it first.“”

On Correctional Actions

I’ll preface my three correctional action suggestions with a statement that UBC is a very fortunate university – it’s a high quality and respected institution with relatively stable financial footings. And we’re also fortunate that a respected leader like president emeritus Martha Piper is acting as Interim President and Vice-Chancellor. This interim role is critically important to moving forward. Only experienced and broadly trusted interim presidents can play the unique university-wide role of helping to repair broken communications and creating psychic healing measures. This is a nebulous but vital role for any president to focus on, from start to finish, amid a governance/leadership crisis.

In terms of correctional actions, it’s first worth noting that many universities and higher education systems are revisiting their governance structures. A formal independent governance review is worth considering. And at a minimum, it’s worth commissioning one or more independent studies of UBC’s governance in comparative perspective, with attention to higher education structures and systems, variations in autonomy and transparency, and the changing context for provincial/higher education relationships. A condition of ‘legacy governance’ exists right now in that our governance systems and procedures reflect earlier eras of revenue streams, very different political and technological contexts, and now dated understandings of the roles of universities in the development of economy and society. Students, in particular, are underrepresented in governance systems vis a vis their majority (in many contexts) role in providing the revenue streams that sustain universities. It’s also worth noting that crises in several of UBC’s peer universities have been associated with a lack of awareness, at the governing board level, regarding how shared governance works, including what roles various formal and informal governance bodies play, as well as how these governance systems interconnect. Conversely, many faculty, staff and students associated with many shared governance bodies do not understand what roles boards of governors (or equivalent) are required to play. In short, an open and transparent examination of governance structures and practices could help, if done well, enhance levels of knowledge while reducing mistrust and erroneous assumptions.

Second, and as noted here, unexpected leadership transitions generate enormous attention to the cultural, economic, and political forces reshaping universities, as well as associated lines of power that bring these forces to life. A crisis is a wonderful teaching and learning moment. But do this in a systematic way! For example, launch a UBC Futures seminar series; provide modest funding to spur on some unique courses and workshops on related issues in the 2016-17 academic year; work with the BC Open Textbook Project or UBC Press to develop a ‘living’ open text on the tumultuous times UBC has been going through so everyone can learn, down the line, what went well, and what did not; enable ethnographic research by social scientists in key governance bodies; etc. There is so much more that could be done to turn all the intellectual power at UBC in on itself so as to learn in a systematic vs. haphazard way. In short, grasp the moment and identity rigorous and intellectually stimulating mechanisms (though not associated with decision-making) to generate sustained and valuable learning-oriented experiences.

Third, take the medium-term view regarding the ongoing presidential search and shape the search process to rebuild community. Some universities can hire in one year after an unexpected leadership transition, while others take 2-3 years of ‘bridging’ leadership. The University of Wisconsin-Madison, for example, dealt with an unexpected leadership crisis in 2011 by bringing back David Ward, our former chancellor (president equivalent) and president emeritus of the American Council of Education (which has 1,700+ member institutions). Interim Chancellor Ward did a wonderful job from 2011-2013 in what he wittily defined as his “Chancellor Encore” role. Ward helped to repair broken communications, including via framing and bringing to life psychic healing measures (e.g., new modes of vertical and lateral communications in and outside of UW-Madison). His sturdy two-year leadership bridge led to the successful 2013 hiring of our current chancellor (Rebecca Blank, President Obama’s acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce).

As Martha Piper aptly put it in her statement about UBC’s Centennial celebrations:

Looking forward, our future is unwritten. What we learn, discover, and contribute together will depend on the strength of our connections – to all of our communities, local and global.

On this note, it’s critically important to ensure that the presidential search process helps build connections in the UBC community, while creating a positive pathway to move forward. If presidential search process troubles and tensions exist, recognize them openly and do something about them. For example, put the presidential search process on pause for one week (or even a long weekend), coordinate a facilitated off-campus retreat with an objective and independent governance/leadership expert, and dig in to honestly explore causes and realistic solutions on a face-to-face basis. Evidence elsewhere points to the fact that all university presidential searches distill and condense what is working well with respect to governance, what’s functioning in an adequate manner, and what is problematic. Presidential searches are lenses into the heart of the governance of the university, inevitably exposing both buried and surface tensions, and uneven power geometries. In short, there are opportunities and risks associated with all presidential searches. Given this it’s important to always take the medium-term view. UBC is a wonderful university, and it will have many options: take time to make the right presidential search process choices, and in so doing strengthen the entire community (alum included!).

Kris Olds

Photos courtesy of @TrishJewison, Eye in the Sky Traffic Reporter for @GlobalBC and @AM730Traffic.


Global Networks Amplify Local Controversies

This entry is also available at Inside Higher Ed.


What are the implications for universities and their governing boards/trustees/councils of becoming increasingly embedded in global networks?

There are many implications, including the ability to be interconnected with flows of knowledgeable people (aka human capital), ideas, money, technologies, and so on. These global networks also ensure that international collaborative research and co-authorship occurs, a phenomenon explored on a number of levels in these fascinating reports:

Pause for a moment, too, and explore this fascinating visualization by Olivier H. Beauchesne of indexable co-authorship between 2005-2009:


What political boundaries, if any, do you notice in this empirically-based visualization of collaborative activity?

It’s no surprise if you read the reports flagged above that governments and funding councils across the worlds are enamored with facilitating more international collaborative research. Why? It is perceived to enhance the quality of the knowledge produced, the ability to address key global challenges, and that collaborative output (e.g., articles, reports, books) can generate relatively higher interest and impacts.

When I examine the above graphic, I think of all of my colleagues at the universities I’ve been educated and have worked at – the University of British Columbia, the University of Bristol, the National University of Singapore, Sciences Po (albeit just for one year), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At all of these universities I was (and am, in the case of UW-Madison) surrounded by colleagues who collaborate with colleagues in other universities, national and regional (e.g., European) research councils, firms, government agencies, international organizations, etc., all of which are scattered across the planet. Of course there is variation in researchers’ individual collaborative geographies, but there is evidence of a progressive deepening and extension of global networks, and this is backed up by bibliometric research on the basis of Thomson Reuters and Elsevier data.

From a broader perspective, it’s worth noting that these globalizing networks are structurally supported by the operation of segmented academic labour markets that are increasingly supra-national in nature, the digitalization of research infrastructures (think of research databases, publication platforms, the Global Research Council, ORCID, etc.), university internationalization strategies, global production networks (value chains), open access online higher education media, etc.

Now when things go well, universities benefit, as do the economies and societies (both territorialized) they are most closely associated with. Think, for example, of the myriad of ways the local, regional and indeed national economy benefited when one UW-Madison faculty member established the largest medical records company (Epic Systems) in the world, with offices in Verona WI, the Netherlands, and Singapore. When things go well, universities see increased attention from the higher ed media, and the business/economy-focused media (given the critically important role of universities in constructing vibrant knowledge-based economies). Said universities see higher positioning in world university rankings, increased flows of international fee-paying students, more diversity and competition in the make up of job applicant pools, more spin-off companies with genuinely global perspectives, greater competitiveness in extramural funding competitions, and so on.

As with many phenomenon, the existence of vibrant global networks that run through universities is a double-edged sword. They have the capacity to, if things go poorly, propel near instantaneous and surprisingly durable echoes and reverberations that span out across global space. Information flows, like water – it can’t be suppressed. Epistemic communities care little for the complex causes of major budget cuts, the detailed factors underlying poor leadership, nor the diverse causes of governance ineptitude. These global epistemic communities, supported by mediatized services (e.g., via Twitter, Facebook, email), pay negligible if nil attention to detailed rationale and nuances of controversial policy shifts (e.g., about tenure and layoff provisions). These increasingly global epistemic communities treasure, above all, freedom of thought to produce innovative forms of knowledge in the search for truth, clear and evident autonomy from the interventive impulses of the state, church, society, and governance systems that are proactively supportive vs repressive/micro-management in inclination.

Unfortunately, while higher education, as well as the associated knowledge economy, is going global, higher education politics with respect to budgets and university governance (at the board/council/trustee level) is at risk of regressing, of becoming more local, regional, hyper-politicized, and ideological. Think, for example, about the messy local/provincial politics shaping key aspects of the University of British Columbia‘s ongoing leadership/governance crisis, or an evident regional agenda to mess about (a ‘solution in search of a problem’?) with one of the foundational principles of academic freedom – tenure – that has built the University of Wisconsin (System), over a century plus, into what it is.

Going global brings with it amazing opportunities. Going global is a necessary developmental agenda for universities that seek to excel and build resilience in the 21st century. Going global is an integral part of supporting of regional knowledge-based economic development strategies, something I learned much about via colleagues on an OECD mission. But, hand in hand with going global is a global eye on the local.

Are those governing universities, and provincial/state higher education systems, as aware as they should be about the global networks that play a fundamental role in sustaining the vibrancy, effectiveness, and stature of their universities? If not, they should be, for local controversies and tensions are also simultaneously global in nature – they reverberate, at the speed of light, through global networks.

Kris Olds

Academic Freedom, Tenure & the U.S. Higher Education System

This entry is available via Inside Higher Ed as well.


2015 is surely one of the most momentous years in a long time regarding debates about tenure, academic freedom, the Wisconsin Idea, budget cuts, etc. Yesterday’s balanced article (‘Tenure or Bust‘) by Colleen Flaherty, in Inside Higher Ed, is but the latest of a series of nuanced pieces Ms. Flaherty has produced this year about the unfolding of higher education debates in this Midwest U.S. state of 5.75 million people.

While I’m immersed in the tumult as a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I can’t help standing back and trying to look at the big picture. Studying, living, working, and visiting a range of other countries, including universities in Canada, England, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and France, as well as being based in the U.S. since 2001, often engenders a drive to compare. And when comparing and reflecting upon what this wonderful university and the state/national higher education system (systems, in reality) has to offer, I increasingly think too much is taken for granted, or assumed. This is a relatively risk-oriented society, and I’m struck by how many people (including many of of the people leaving comments below ‘Tenure or Bust‘) assume the system is ‘broken,’ resiliency can be counted upon, and mechanisms to turn the system on a dime exist, if searched for long enough. They also ignore path dependency, and prior developmental trajectories and agendas, the ones that have led us to where we are now, a nation that has some of the strongest and most dynamic universities in the world. Problems and weaknesses exist, of course, but people in Wisconsin and the U.S. more broadly don’t seem to know just how many other countries are desperate to create just the types of universities that exist here.

And what are some of the deep (core) principles and conditions that have led to the creation of so many world-class universities and higher education systems (at the state-scale) in Wisconsin and the U.S. more broadly? This question brings me to the words of Hanna Holborn Gray, the esteemed president of the University of Chicago from 1978 to 1993. In conference panel comments reprinted in the Summer 2009 issue of Social Research, Hanna Holborn Gray deemed universities to be a very important and special institution:

…the only institution in our world, that is, as it were, commissioned to always take a longer-term look. The only institution in our world that is commissioned, so to speak, to concentrate on the mission of discovery and learning, and the transmission of learning, on the elaboration and interpretation and debate over important ideas, over what is most important in the cultural world.

Emeritus President Holborn Gray then begged the question: “What is it that makes that profession or vocation possible? And what is it that makes the institution in which it is carried on a genuine institution?”

Her question was actually answered 115 years earlier to this day (18 December 1900), by the founding president of the University of Chicago, William Rainey Harper, in his ‘36th Quarterly Statement of the President of the University’:

When for any reason, in a university on private foundation or in a university supported by public money, the administration of the institution or the instruction in any one of its departments is changed from an influence from without; when an effort is made to dislodge an officer or a professor because the political sentiment or the religious sentiment of the majority has undergone a change, at that moment the institution has ceased to be a university, and it cannot again take its place in the rank of universities so long as their continues to exist any appreciable extent of coercion. Neither an individual, nor the state, nor the church has the right to interfere with the search for truth, or with its promulgation when found. Individuals, or the state, or the church may found schools for propagating certain kinds of special instruction, but such schools are not universities, and may not be so denominated.

Genuine ‘universities’ like the University of Chicago and those that make up the University of Wisconsin System are associated with conditions of autonomy, and are spaces that respect and uphold academic freedom. And from the faculty perspective, academic freedom is significantly realized via the mechanism of tenure, which enables faculty to focus upon things like “establishing revolutionary theories about economics” (one of Milton Friedman’s many contributions in Chicago), the sustained basic research that underlies the creation of the iPhone (that the University of Wisconsin-Madison contributed to), challenging research questions related to democratization, authoritarianism, sexuality or violence, complex global challenges such as climate change, and so on. And in so doing, these faculty members (in association with staff & students) play a major role in creating the conditions that have helped us facilitate the formation of one of the world’s first university-linked technology transfer units (WARF) in 1925, through to generating research activity and spin-off firms that has made the Madison city-region one of the US’s most advanced industrial bases (according to the Brookings Institution in 2015) — a now common process of geographical concentration that the World Bank and others (e.g., David Warsh) note is inevitable, but defacto functions as ‘engines’ for regional and national economies.

I have no doubt the vast majority of the University of Chicago’s current faculty would make the same argument I am above: after all, that great university’s leadership has been doing so since it was founded 125 years ago in 1890. Visionary leaders like William Rainey Harper and Hanna Holborn Gray were aware that the long and challenging road to build one of the most dynamic and powerful higher education systems in the world depended upon more than platitudes about ‘academic freedom’ – academic freedom actually had (and has) to be realized each and every day.

Kris Olds

Reflections on Tenure in Canada vs Wisconsin

This entry is available at Inside Higher Ed as well.


In the context of some intense debates about tenure in the University of Wisconsin System, and at UW-Madison, I’ve been acquiring some interesting information and views about tenure and related governance matters in Canada vs Wisconsin. Reflections and data have been kindly provided by Canadian leaders representing faculty and university administrative bodies, both nationally and in select universities.

Why focus on this issue in comparative perspective? First, leading Canadian universities (UBC, Toronto, Waterloo, McGill) have been poaching faculty from UW and could increasingly do so if proposed changes to tenure do not match existing standards/AAUP guidelines. Second, looking at different systems in a comparative way helps you realize what is working well here in WI, but also what might need to be changed, especially if higher education governance becomes more politicized in Wisconsin (as it has been in states like North Carolina).

In the end, it is similar and different in Canadian peer universities vs what we experience in WI. I think the biggest difference is it is more unionized in Canada (for ~80% of the faculty base) and the details re. tenure and layoffs are embedded in collective agreements. This said, some faculty associations at peers – the University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, McMaster University, and McGill University – though not officially certified as labour unions, nevertheless have negotiated collective agreements with standard grievance and arbitration procedures. Also, in Canada, the majority of part-time faculty are unionized and staff are unionized. It just goes to show you don’t necessarily need regulations re. tenure embedded in the state statutes (or equivalent) to guarantee strong tenure and shared governance, but, this said, there are other key differences (see below) so how it is all configured matters, a lot…

In the end, no tenured faculty in Canadian universities (including 100% of our peers, the ones poaching our faculty) lose tenure except for engaging in serious forms of unethical behavior (i.e. ‘due cause’). Exigency-related rules do apply but it has not happened, to date, for all sorts of reasons. And if exigency-related layoffs of tenured faculty were to be proposed, it happens at a broader university-scale and the guidelines typically state that a task-force is to be appointed with diverse membership and/or it can only happen in specified ways.

The other big (and important) difference is program-related changes are run through Canadian university senates and the senate is typically made up of senior administrators and elected faculty (the majority), staff, students, etc. See these senate membership lineups, for example:

The UW Board of Regents equivalent in Canadian universities does not need to sign off on program-related changes like the Board of Regents does here. So decisions on closure or redundancy are senate decisions (i.e. the locus of engagement and control is intra-institutional in nature). And in unionized environments, redundancy procedure, after senate has declared program closure, etc., are governed by collective agreement processes. In general the UW Board of Regents here in WI has not been too involved in the fine-grained details of program-related decisions or the funding of centers – they approve what has come up via shared governance pathways. But they could, in the future, become far more active and micro-management in orientation.

On a related note, boards of trustees or equivalent in Canada are university-specific and are more diverse and relatively autonomous from government involvement. You basically have government funded but privately (not-for-profit) autonomous universities. This keeps things less capital P political. The proposed New Badger Partnership (2011) Board of Trustees:

UW-Madison governed by 21-member Board of Trustees, including 11 members appointed by the Governor, with no Senate confirmation. Remaining 10 members represent UW-Madison constituencies (faculty, staff, classified staff, alumni, WARF). All remaining UW campuses governed by the current Board of Regents.

would have brought us half way to to this level of board autonomy vs the current system, though this proposed approach to governance should have also been applied to the UW System more generally and not just UW-Madison.

Thus, what you see is a relatively more autonomous/less politicized university and higher ed governance system in Canada; one where the norms of tenure and academic freedom are sometimes constructed via agreements but often are just part of institutional-organizational culture. The faculty trust the system more, I would say, than they do here now in what could become, if we don’t watch out, a hyper-politicized context. And they do so partly because of the unionized context, the codified agreements, and the fact the premier (governor equivalent) and the ruling party (or parties) tend to be much more hands-off. Increasingly, in Canada, governments through sector-wide bargaining or recalibrating funding formula, or setting tuition fee parameters, are exercising more hands on approaches. Budgets are, of course, political, but they’re just budgets for the most part and they don’t embed policy matters re tenure into budgetary processes in Canada like it has been happening here. It’s a more deliberative context: not perfect, this said, just more deliberative in structure.

The short-term take-away: don’t have unclear terms and procedures in a context where the potential exists for an increasingly more politicized and micro-management-oriented Board of Regents. Maintain tenure standards at UW-Madison and other universities in the UW System that match, in spirit and meaning, what they were before policy changes were injected into the Spring 2015 Wisconsin state budget. Faculty should not lose tenure except for ‘due cause’, as per AAUP guidelines. If program closure occurs after careful consideration by university-specific governance bodies, tenured faculty should have the right to shift to the unit of their choice, or become a professor of the school or college they are affiliated with. It is a clear and straightforward definition of tenure, and academic freedom, that helped make the US university system so well known, globally, for the production of innovative forms of knowledge. Unclear terms and procedures re. tenure has serious potential to destabilize the foundation of the entire system. And Canadian universities, not to mention hundreds of other US universities, will be salivating if this occurs.

The medium-term take-away: think about the potential role of faculty senates in future debates/steps. And think about tenure and shared governance in the context of the overall governance of the UW System (incl. what has been happening, and what should be happening). In my mind we have a legacy-based governance system that does not reflect the new realities of fiscal (tuition as a majority funding stream), economic (a globalizing knowledge economy), academic, and societal contexts. An unraveling of tenure in the next year will be a proxy indicator the entire UW System governance structure needs to be rethought.

We are, arguably, at risk of seeing the convergence of a legacy-based governance system with a more forceful and explicit political agenda – and this is not beneficial for a world-class university, and a world-class multi-campus state university system, in the 21st century.  Anchor tenure, tightly.

Kris Olds