Group of participants of the academic freedom ideathon in the EESC building
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Ideathon on academic freedom protection: three promising projects have been awarded !

Academic freedom is essential but threatened in many countries. Therefore, academic freedom is at the heart of a project carried out by European Students Union (ESU) with the support of the Open Society Foundations

From the 16th to the 20th of January around 40 participants from over 15 different countries gathered in Brussels for the Ideathon, the second event of the Academic Freedom project. 

The first part of the project happened in September 2022 in Cluj-Napoca, Romania and was a first workshop to provide some inputs on the topic to the participants.

In this second event in Brussels, participants have been able to build an intercultural group project to work on a campaigning strategy to raise awareness on threats to academic freedom. Nine groups have faced the competition and have tried to convince the jury. In the end, the three best projects were awarded with a grant of 750 euros to help them implement their project on site after the end of the Ideathon. 

The participants had three days to work on and create their campaigning projects, including one half day of workshop with Adam Braver, coordinator of the Student Advocacy Seminars at the US Section of Scholars At Risk , who provided key inputs to help the participants to understand how to build an advocacy strategy, including campaigning project on the topic of academic freedom. 

The jury, composed of Matteo Vespa (president of ESU), Iris Kimizoglu (member of the executive committee of ESU), Adam Braver, and Florine Serrault (project officer of ESU) has been very impressed by the high quality and originality of all the projects. The selection was very difficult, the groups all showed great motivation and smart ideas of campaigns. Eventually, after a long deliberation process, the three chosen winners are:

  • The Artdemic project. What if art meets activism ? This is what the Artdemic project will make possible, offering the possibility for censored scholars or students activists, or experts of academic freedom to tell their stories to artists who will share and amplify their voice through their artworks. For young artists, it is also going to be a unique opportunity to learn about academic freedom protection and involve themselves in this important cause. This great collaboration work will be concluded by an open exhibition in Catalonia in May. 
  • The Omega project is proposing a very unique content still currently missing out of the internet and on the well-known Youtube platform: a series of short Youtube videos in the form of interviews to raise awareness about breaches to academic freedom, with a focus on Belarus. It will also allow ex-imprisoned scholars, activists and experts to speak out about their experiences and loudly denounce the censorship and unfair treatment they might have experienced. 
  • The Fetters at liberty project is a beautiful story of cooperation between three Balkan countries: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina,  and Albania. A series of workshops will be provided to the students of the Universities of Belgrade, Sarajevo and Tirana  to raise awareness on academic freedom  in the three countries and to encourage the engagement in student activism. This project will be concluded by a final online meeting gathering the participants from all the workshops of the three countries to share their results and knowledge in relation to academic freedom protection.  

The three awarded groups will have the chance to present their campaigning project in front of our students representative members during the European Student Convention in Lund in March. 

They will have until the end of May to fully implement their campaign, so stay tuned:  the best of the Academic Freedom project is still to come !

And don’t hesitate to share around and spread the word about the fight for academic freedom!


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