India’s academic freedom declined strongly since 2013: Report

India among populous countries like China, the United States that fared poorly in the latest academic freedom index

By Rohini Krishnamurthy
Published: Thursday 02 March 2023
Academic freedom in India, China, 22 other countries declined in last decade: Report
Jadavpur University students protesting police action on campus and demanding resignation of the then vice-chancellor of the university. Kolkata, 2014. Photo: iStock Jadavpur University students protesting police action on campus and demanding resignation of the then vice-chancellor of the university. Kolkata, 2014. Photo: iStock

India’s academic freedom index is in the bottom 30 per cent among 179 countries, according to a new report.

The Academic Freedom Index report provides an overview of academic freedom in 179 countries by assessing five indicators. It is based on assessments by more than 2,197 country experts from around the world. 

The indicators include freedom to research and teach; freedom of academic exchange and dissemination; institutional autonomy of universities; campus integrity; and the freedom of academic and cultural expression.

On a scale of 0 (low) to 1 (high), India scored 0.38, lower than Pakistan’s 0.43 and the United States’ 0.79, according to the report released February 2, 2023. 

State of academic freedom in 2022


Scale 0-1 (low to high). Source: Academic Freedom Index 

The new report comes a month after the National Disaster Management Authority issued a gag order, preventing government institutions from interacting with the media and sharing data on social media regarding land subsidence in Uttarakhands’s Joshimath town.

India scored low in campus integrity, which measures the extent to which campuses are free from politically motivated surveillance or security infringements.

The country also fared poorly in institutional autonomy and academic and cultural expression related to political issues.

As for freedom to research and teach and freedom of academic exchange and dissemination, India did slightly better than the three indicators above.

The country’s freedom index score was high in the past, ranging from 0.60-0.70 between 1950 and 2012, except from 1974-1978, data showed.

“Around 2013, all aspects of academic freedom began to decline strongly, reinforced with Narendra Modi’s election as Prime Minister in 2014,” the report read.

A lack of a legal framework to protect academic freedom has enabled attacks on academic freedom under the ruling government, according to the authors.

They wrote: 

What distinguishes India from other cases is notable pressure on the institutional dimensions of academic freedom — institutional autonomy and campus integrity — combined with constraints on the academic freedom of expression.

China’s academic freedom index stood at 0.07 in 2022, occupying the bottom 10 per cent. The country’s score fell from 0.45 in 1948 to 0.08 in 2050. It picked up in 1980 before declining again in the 2010s.

China has seen an “accelerated deterioration around 2010, with pressure on all aspects of academic freedom”, the report read.

The declines in India and China could bear more consequences as they are home to 2.8 billion people, the researchers suggested.

Like China and India, populous countries like the United States of America and Mexico have recorded a decline in academic freedom over the past decade.

Universities and scholars in 22 countries and territories have witnessed lower freedom today than they did 10 years ago, according to the analysis. 

Only five small countries, representing 0.7 per cent of the global population, improved their rankings. 

In the remaining 152 countries, academic freedom has stayed stagnant, data showed. For the average global citizen, academic freedom has gone back to levels last registered four decades ago, the report highlighted.

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