India's institutions and scholars today enjoy "significantly less academic freedom than 10 years ago" according to a report titled “Academic Freedom Index Update 2023”.
The report was prepared with collaboration from 2,917 country experts worldwide and was co-ordinated by Swedish think tank V-Dem Institute and the Institute of Political Science at the Friedrich Alexander University in Germany.
India is among 22 countries and territories out of 179 in the world that achieved this feat.
This Democracy Report from @vdeminstitute documents the ten top countries in steep decline.— V-Dem Institute (@vdeminstitute) March 3, 2023
Read the report: https://t.co/eEgWx2WRSb
Check out the dataset: https://t.co/d9PVmXHgClpic.twitter.com/Sn7SBDviZf
The index score used five indicators — the freedom to research and teach, freedom of academic exchange and dissemination, institutional autonomy of universities, freedom of academic and cultural expression and campus integrity, or the absence of security infringements and surveillance on campus.
Last year, India was given a score of 0.38 in a table of 0 to 1, where 1 is the highest academic freedom.
India's immediate neighbours Nepal (0.86), Pakistan (0.45) and Bhutan (0.46) scored higher whereas Bangladesh (0.25) and Myanmar (0.01) scored lower than India.
The report noted that although India’s decline in academic freedom "started from a comparatively high level during India’s democratic period,” it is now associated with “rapidly accelerating autocratisation”.
Around 2013, all aspects of academic freedom began to decline strongly, reinforced with Narendra Modi’s election as prime minister in 2014, it said.
Pressure on institutional autonomy and campus integrity combined with constraints on academics’ freedom of expression - is what distinguished India from other countries scored on the index.
“The attacks on academic freedom under [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi’s Hindu nationalist government were also possible due to the absence of a legal framework to protect academic freedom,” the report added.
The report's authors further called on higher education policymakers, university leaders, and research funders to promote academic freedom in their own academic institutions as well as abroad.
A record number of 42 countries are autocratizing, harbouring 43% of the world’s population, according to the new V-Dem data.— V-Dem Institute (@vdeminstitute) March 3, 2023
The report: https://t.co/eEgWx2WRSb
The dataset: https://t.co/d9PVmXHgCl
Countries Democratizing (in blue) vs. Autocratizing (in red), 2012-2022 pic.twitter.com/sdnT6MOo5A
Meanwhile, in other countries like the United States, the report noted that four out of five indicators used for determining academic freedom visibly declined in 2021 – the year after President Donald Trump was voted out of office.
Mexico too has experienced a decline in academic freedom since 2017 which has been further exacerbated after the election of Mexico’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, "whose government has undermined university autonomy," the report said.
China's deterioration in academic freedom, accelerated around 2010 with pressure on all aspects. "The university with Chinese characteristics entails a leadership and management system controlled by the university’s party committee, even if it includes an academic committee and a faculty representative assembly. This structural condition facilitated deterioration in all dimensions of academic freedom when Xi Jinping assumed office," the report said.
The aforementioned three countries are among the most populous countries where academic freedom has significantly fallen back over the past decade, the report noted.