Violent and coercive attacks on higher education are a widespread problem affecting higher education institutions and personnel through out the world. This study presents a framework for examining such attacks through the relationship of institutional autonomy and security. Because this relationship is a complex one, there is very little prior research on it. However, because this relationship offers insight into how to better protect higher education, it is worth pursuing. This study suggests that institutional autonomy may have a protective function above and beyond its contribution to research and education outputs,which therefore indicates that efforts to protect higher education from attack should address autonomy and security concerns simultaneously. This necessarily requires strategies for working with states, both because states are ultimately responsible for guaranteeing both autonomy and security, and because states are often implicated in attacks,whether as direct or complicit perpetrators, or by failing to prevent or deter attacks, or to hold perpetrators accountable. This study concludes that strategies tailored to the role of states in specific contexts may be most effective at increasing protection,whether from state or non-state perpetrators. GCPEA and its members have an important role to play in fostering international discussion and action aimed at developing and implementing these strategies. Next steps may include sponsoring follow-on research, encouraging reporting and monitoring of attacks, convening expert working groups, and/or developing guidelines for protecting higher education that include both institutional autonomy and security dimensions. The ultimate goal of all of these efforts should be to establish a culture of autonomy and security, recognised not only within the higher education sector but in the wider society, in which higher education spaces are “off limits” to attacks, freeing them to develop their research, educational, and social functions fully and with maximum benefit for all.
The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack was established in 2010 by organizations working in the fields of education in emergencies and conflict affected contexts, higher education, protection, international human rights, and humanitarian law who were concerned about ongoing attacks on educational institutions, their students, and staff in countries affected by conflict and insecurity. GCPEA is a unique coalition of leading international organizations including CARA, Human Rights Watch, the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund, Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict, Save the Children International, the Scholars at Risk Network, UNICEF, and UNHCR. GCPEA is a project of the Tides Center, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. This report is the result of an external study commissioned by GCPEA and may not reflect the views of the individual member organizations. The study was prepared by Amy Kapit, lead researcher and PhD candidate in the International Education Program at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development; Jodut Hashmi, researcher and PhD candidate at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education; and Robert Quinn, research supervisor, editor, and Executive Director of the Scholars at Risk Network. GCPEA invites comments on the study or inquiries about the coalition’s work at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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