Academic freedom in Bahrain
Sir, – Prof Damian McCormack (July 1st ) refers to the National University of Ireland as an organ of the State. It is not. It is an independent statutory body and has been so since its foundation in 1908. It now comprises four constituent universities and other associated colleges.
Today, increased internationalisation in higher education is pursued as a sectoral policy objective by governments throughout the developed world. It is pursued by universities for its economic benefits and as a source of enrichment of teaching, learning and research and of general enhancement of academic quality. It is seen also as contributing significantly to human development in host countries.
Like other universities, the NUI member institutions seek actively to increase their impact internationally by forming partnerships with universities and higher education institutions in other countries and establishing campuses for the delivery of degree and other programmes in overseas locations. Political instability, civil unrest, conflict and reported human rights violations have been notable features of recent history in several countries where NUI institutions are involved in partnerships. These developments have pointed to the need for NUI and its institutions to have clear policies on human rights and strategies to enable them to respond appropriately in difficult situations and also to be ready publicly to justify their decisions.
Prof McCormack refers to the obligations of the NUI under the European Convention on Human Rights and has asked NUI to clarify its position. It is precisely because of our awareness of these obligations and wider UN obligations that in 2011, NUI asked the Irish Human Rights Commission to draft a set of principles and best practice to guide the NUI constituent universities and recognised colleges who wish to compete for the provision of educational services overseas.
The IHRC draft was presented to the NUI Senate where it was welcomed. NUI also consulted the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Education and Skills which responded positively. The document was then referred to all member institutions for debate and comment and was finalised by an expert committee of human rights lawyers and other specialists, drawn from the four NUI universities and Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, before being adopted by the NUI Senate.
The document entitled Human Rights Principles and Code of Conduct for the National University of Ireland – and its Member Institutions is available at www.nui.ie. It is intended to provide a framework to guide all universities that wish to operate in challenging human rights environments and already a number of European national human rights institutions have expressed an interest in having similar codes of conduct adopted in their own countries. However, I should say that our document is a start and far from the last word on the subject and like Prof McCormack I would welcome comments and constructive suggestions. – Yours, etc,
National University of