Institutional Autonomy, Academic Freedom and Imposture in the Academia – Do Academic Core Values Safeguard Against Corruption?

Event: International Conference

Location: NEC conference hall

24 May 2018, 10.00 – 19.00

Sorin COSTREIE, Călin COTOI, Ligia DECA, Ruxandra DEMETRESCU, Nicolae GHEORGHIȚĂ, Dana JALOBEANU, Kázmér KOVÁCS, Gheorghe Alexandru NICULESCU, Cosima RUGHINIŞ

Călin COTOI, Ligia DECA, Robert HARMSEN, Ştefania MATEI, Joachim NETTELBECK, Gheorghe Alexandru NICULESCU, Mara RAȚIU, Robert REISZ, Cosima RUGHINIŞ, Monika STEINEL, Emilia ȘERCAN, Lazăr VLĂSCEANU


University autonomy and academic freedom are both longstanding principles of the academia and almost a ‘given’ in policy discussions about higher education, especially in Europe and North America. Most legal frameworks include guarantees for university autonomy and academic freedom, as givens in the relationship between the state and the academia. The European University Association (EUA) has a tradition of over a decade of surveying different approaches to autonomy across Europe, by looking at its four dimensions: organizational, financial, staffing related and academic. In international league tables, such as the Shanghai Ranking, the dominant top ten universities belong to systems with a very high level of autonomy and a historic level of freedom. There is a general perception that a high level of university autonomy guarantees quality in both educational and research processes in the academia, despite notable exceptions, mainly located in Asia (e.g. National University in Singapore). Academic freedom is seen as a given in such high quality systems, despite some researchers arguing that a high level of institutional autonomy does not necessarily mean a similar high regard for academic freedom (Matei and Iwinska, forthcoming).

In the public eye, another precondition for educational and research quality is a solid attachment to the principles of ethics and academic integrity. In order to preserve credibility as an actor in the knowledge society, a university is expected to make sure there is zero tolerance for those wishing to cheat the system, be it in terms of rules of academic writing, research ethics or hiring procedures. Imposture is seen as unacceptable in a good quality university and should thus be avoided at all costs.

But this leads to the core question of this colloquium: how do we fight academic imposture, while preserving institutional autonomy and academic freedom as core principles? Seeing the recent high profile cases of academic corruption and the evidence of widespread institutional/ systemic breaches of integrity and ethical guidelines, it is clear that university autonomy and academic freedom alone do not guarantee ethically pristine higher education systems. One could even argue that a high level of institutional autonomy/ academic freedom in a system in which integrity is not the social norm could lead to a proliferation of academic imposture.


10.00 – 10.15 Welcome: Anca OROVEANU
Opening remarks: Ligia DECA

Moderator: Cosima RUGHINIȘ

10.15 – 10.45 Robert HARMSEN
Autonomy, Accountability and the Dilemmas of Contemporary University Reform

10.45 – 11.15 Ligia DECA
Institutional Autonomy and the Quest for the Internationalization of Romanian Universities – What holds us back?

11.15 – 11.45 Călin COTOI
Writing and Teaching in the Periphery: Irrelevance and Plagiarism

11.45 – 12.15 Coffee break


12.15 – 12.45 Joachim NETTELBECK
University Autonomy in Democracy. A critique of the Feudal Academic Order

12.45 – 13.15 Gheorghe Alexandru NICULESCU
Compliant Autonomies and Systemic Impostures: The Work of Domination and the Survival Conditions of Authenticity

13.15 – 13.45 Robert D. REISZ
On the Complicated Relationship between Academic Fraud and of the Value of Originality

13.45 – 15.15 Lunch break

Moderator: Gheorghe Alexandru NICULESCU

15.15 – 15.45 Monika STEINEL
Universities under Pressure? A European Perspective on Institutional Autonomy and Academic Freedom

15.45 – 16.15
Cosima RUGHINIȘ, Ștefania MATEI
Seeing Like a State: Romanian Universities’ Research Productivity through the Lens of Performance Reporting

16.15 – 16.45 Coffee break

Moderator: Ligia DECA

16.45 – 17.15 Lazăr VLĂSCEANU
Academic Traditional Values and Neo-Liberal Policies: From Complementarity to Confrontation and Mutual Erosion

17.15 – 17.45 Emilia ȘERCAN
Plagiarism in Romanian Military Universities

17.45 – 18.15 Mara RAȚIU
The ‘Autonomy’ of Art Academies: The Double-Edged Sword

18.15 – 18.45 Conclusions / Final remarks


The conference was supported by a grant of the Executive Unit for Financing Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation – UEFISCDI, project number PN-III-P3-3.6-H2020-2016-0018, within PNCDI III.