The Council of Europe

 AAC&U has been a member of the US Steering Committee of the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility and Democracy (IC) since the latter's inception over a decade ago. Through its involvement in the IC, AAC&U collaborates with the Council of Europe in their mission to highlight and advance the contributions of higher education to democracy on college and university campuses, their local communities and the wider society. Other members of the IC US Steering Committee include the American Council on Education, the Association of State Colleges and Universities, and Campus Compact. The U.S.-based Consortium is housed at the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania.

Global Forum on
“Academic Freedom, Institutional Autonomy, and the Future of Democracy”
20-21 June 2019
Council of Europe


Academic freedom and institutional autonomy are essential to democracy as well as to quality research and teaching. Over the past few years, these fundamental values of democracy have come under increasing pressure in many countries across the globe, in a context where scientific research, learning, and the very idea of facts are questioned or ridiculed. Some attacks on fundamental academic values are dramatic and the focus of news reporting. Others seem less dramatic, but nevertheless pose serious long term challenges to academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and the future of democracy.

The Global Forum will bring together perspectives and experiences from Europe, North America, and other parts of the world to develop a better and more nuanced understanding of the relationship of academic freedom and institutional autonomy to democratic culture, as well as the role of higher education in developing that culture. The conference will also help higher education leaders as well as public authorities develop policies that increase higher education's contribution to democracy in modern, complex societies.

This is the sixth Global Forum that has developed as a core component of the ongoing cooperation among the Council of Europe, the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility and Democracy, and as of April 2018 the Organization of American States, to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The Magna Charta Observatory and the International Association of Universities are also partners in the 2019 Global Forum, which will be hosted at the Council of Europe’s headquarters in Strasbourg.

Outcomes of the Global Forum:

  • ​​​An increased understanding of and commitment to academic freedom and institutional autonomy in advancing democratic societies.

  • ​A better understanding of how higher education can work with public authorities to advance its democratic mission.

  • Input to the ongoing consideration of academic freedom and institutional autonomy within the European Higher Education Area (Bologna Process) in preparation of its next Ministerial conference in June 2020.

  • A volume in the Council of Europe Higher Education Series


  • 20-21 June. The Conference will include plenary sessions, group work, and a round table debate.

Higher education leaders and representatives of public authorities and NGOs from Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

Declaration on Higher Education and Democratic Culture
American college and university presidents are invited to sign the Council of Europe's Declaration on Higher Education and Democratic Culture. By signing, the institution commits to taking action in their local, national and global communities to put the principles of democracy, civic responsibility and citizenship into practice.

The declaration states that “Democracy cannot exist without strong institutions and sound legislation, but it also cannot work without being based on democratic culture. Education and schooling are decisive forces shaping the democratic development of societies; and universities, in turn, are strategic institutions for the democratic development of schooling and societies.”

The declaration was developed and adopted during a two-day forum Higher Education and Democratic Culture: Citizenship, Human Rights and Civic Responsibility, sponsored by the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee for Higher Education and Research (CDESR). It was held in 2006 at the Council of Europe headquarters in Strasbourg, France. The declaration builds on related previous Council of Europe activities such as the pilot project on the University as a Site of Citizenship, organized jointly with an international consortium of U.S. higher education organizations with the University of Pennsylvania playing a leading role, and the Council of Europe initiative for the European Year of Citizenship through Education in 2005.

AAC&U has an ongoing commitment to promoting personal and social responsibility as a learning outcome in a liberal education.

About the Council of Europe
Established in 1949, the Council of Europe defends human rights, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, develops continent-wide agreements to standardize member countries' social and legal practices, and promotes awareness of a European identity based on shared values and cutting across different cultures.

Europe’s oldest political organization, the Council’s membership totals 46 countries, including 21 countries from Central and Eastern Europe. For more information, please visit the Council of Europe website.