Global Survey of Academic Freedom Issues [Post 18 of a Series]


This series covers the issues that surfaced in 2015. I had it done at the beginning of 2016, but I have been somewhat slow getting it posted.

North Africa

Terrorist attacks in Tunisia created considerable concern on Tunisian university campuses for several related reasons: some of the campuses are located close to areas from which terrorist groups have operated and which have come under continuing attack by the Tunisian military; a significant number of ISIS and al Qaeda recruits have been radicalized university students; all of the university campuses are relatively soft targets; and, lastly, the increased security on the university campuses disrupted class schedules and extracurricular activities and constrained political expression and academic freedom, but it was clearly not enough to deter or to respond effectively to any attacks. So, students were significantly inconvenienced by all of the accommodations required to increase security but remained very uneasy because the security was clearly inadequate. On many campuses, there were dusk-to-dawn curfews that required the elimination of evening classes and imposed significant limitations on the scheduling of the meetings of student clubs and the scheduling of athletic events. As a result, students at the more geographically isolated campuses were transferring to other Tunisian universities and to universities in countries less vulnerable to terrorist attacks. (Jamel)


In November 2015, “hundreds of thousands of students in Libya [headed] back to universities, keen to start a delayed academic year,” but all too aware that their studies could be interrupted “at any moment due to endless fighting and an absence of security” (Alighama). An article for Al-Fanar Media, Abdel Monheim Alighama and Reda Felboom illustrated the problems that Libya’s universities face with a telling anecdote: “Last year, armed groups occupied the female dormitory of Sabha University and forced the students to leave immediately, as the militants wanted to use the building as a base for artillery and mortars. Later, [after the militants left and the students] were allowed to go back to the dormitory to pick up their possessions, . . . [they were] shocked by the amount of destruction. ‘[Bullet shells] and [spent] mortar rounds were everywhere, [their] clothes and books were thrown into corridors, [and they were not able] to recognize their own personal possessions] and ran away out of fear’” (Alighama).

Alighama and Felboom also provided the following background information about conditions in Libya under which some universities are still attempting to operate: “Libya is bitterly split now between two opposing governments, parliaments and fighting forces, both intent on seizing the country’s power and assets. Mixed in with that central conflict, many other armed factions are roaming the countryside, many of them half criminal, half political. In most regions, there are also some fighters from local tribes. According to United Nations estimates, 400,000 Libyans have fled their homes to escape the fighting. Moreover, the civil war that has been wracking the country has seen universities bombed. Some of the country’s 12 public universities, where most students are enrolled, have had to halt education, and operations have been impeded at others. The British Council and the U.S. State Department, both of which had plans to try to support higher education in Libya, have fled the country. . . . Professors are working in unstable conditions, with no regular payment of their wages and no health or social insurance. . . . Ali Al-Aswad, a professor in the oil and gas engineering faculty of Al Zawia University, [said], ‘We are working in very dangerous, unprofessional circumstances. When you enter a class where students are armed, you can’t teach normally’” (Alighama).


On March 8, Egyptian academics marked the 75th anniversary of the “independence” of the nation’s universities. On this date in 1940, “Cairo University’s first president, Lotfy al-Sayed, resigned in protest at a ministerial decision demanding the dismissal of Egypt’s intellectual and dean of the Faculty of Arts, Taha Hussein, sending a message against governmental interference in the independent Cairo University” (El Behary). An article in the Egypt Independent provides a succinct but detailed overview of the many challenges faced by Egyptian faculty and students as the government attempts to constrain political activism on the nation’s campuses. But, special attention is given to four cases involving faculty and two cases involving administrators that were highlighted in a report by the Association for Freedom of Thoughts and Expression (AFTE):

“On 28 February, Adel al-Badr, a professor of philosophy was referred to disciplinary after investigation on charges of inciting students to violence, state overthrow and insulting the regime.  AFTE explained the incident was after a debate between Badr and another professor on 19 February, when he criticized the regime. Mansoura University suspended Badr for six months and prevented him from entering the university only to attend the investigations. Moreover they cut 25 percent of his monthly salary.

“On 22 January 2015, Madiha al-Sayeh, a professor at the Faculty Dar Al-Ulum at Cairo University was referred to investigation and suspended from work for three months, claiming that she was teaching a subject about Holy Quran Eloquence written from Sayyid Qutb, an Islamist writer and a former leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“In another incident, on 28 December 2014 Al-Azhar University decided to amend the titles of scientific research of a group of masters and PhD researchers at Al-Azhar University. The university alleged that the titles violated the concept of a modern Al-Azhar and threatened the national unity, Tawfik Nour Aldin vice head of Al-Azhar University told AFTE.

“The fourth case, was on 21 September 2014 when Al-Azhar university banned granting a PhD researcher Mohammed Ibrahim Abu Attia, Faculty of Islamic Dawa Al-Azhar, because he referred to the 30 June uprising as a “military coup.” Moreover the discussion committee members were referred to investigation.

“AFTE also shed light on cases that violated the independence of the universities. On 26 January 2015, Zagazing University fired Hamid Attia, the Vice President, due to exposure to criminal prosecution and being in custody since June 2011.

“In the second case, President of Alexandria University Osama Ibrahim resigned in October because he refused a visit by the governor of Alexandria and the Minister of Youth and Sports to the Faculty of Commerce and inspecting its stadiums, without informing the president of the university. Previously, Ibrahim has suffered heavy pressure, when the media launched a campaign arguing his resignation, claiming he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and he was banned from traveling to attend a scientific conference in Qatar on 6 December 2014, which led him to submit his resignation from the Freedom and Justice Party” (El-Behary).


According to a report by the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, an Egyptian organization that monitors such issues, “during the 2014-2015 academic year, 413 students were dismissed” from Egyptian universities “for political reasons,” and 470 were dismissed the year before” (El-Tohamy).Those “political reasons” ranged “’from organizing a protest on campus to distributing anti-state political leaflets’” (El-Tohamy). In 2014, the federal laws governing Egyptian universities were amended by the president of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly Mansour, to give “university presidents full authority to permanently dismiss students and [that provision of the law] has led to an increase in student dismissals” (El-Tohamy).

Ironically, dozens of the students dismissed from Egyptian universities for their political activism have chosen to finish their educations at Turkish universities, which have been struggling against the constraints on free expression and academic freedom imposed by the increasingly authoritarian regime of President Erdogan.



Alighama, Abdel Monheim, and Reda Felboom. “Forgotten War, Forgotten Country, Forgotten Universities.” Al-Fanar Media 7 Nov. 2015.

El-Behary, Hend. “Anniversary of University Independence Casts Doubt on Academic Freedom.” Egypt Independent 8 Mar. 2015.

El-Tohamy, Amr. “Turkey Offers Refuge to Expelled Egyptian Students.” Al-Fanar Media 15 Dec. 2015.

Jamel, Ibtissem. “Tunisian Universities Tense after Nation’s Terrorist Attacks.” Al-Fanar Media 7 Dec. 2015.


Previous Posts in the Series:

Post 1. Canada—University of British Columbia [Part 1]:

Post 2. Canada—University of British Columbia [Part 2]:

Post 3. Canada—University of New Brunswick:

Post 4. Canada—Capilano University:

Post 5. Canada—Overview:

Post 6. Canada—Additional Items:

Post 7. Australia– Nikolic, Powell, and Price:

Post 8: Australia–Copenhagen Consensus Centre at Flinders University and Monash University Branch Campus in China:

Post 9: New Zealand—Police and Government Interference in Academic Freedom, Tertiary Education Union and Association of Scientists:

Part 10: United Kingdom, Part 1: Free-Speech Rankings, Issues in Higher Education, and the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act:

Part 11: Global Survey of Academic Freedom Issues in 2015: United Kingdom, Part 2:

Part 12: Global Survey of Academic Freedom Issues in 2015: United Kingdom, Part 3, Scotland:

Part 13: Global Survey of Academic Freedom Issues in 2015: United Kingdom, Part 4, Northern Ireland:

Part 14: Global Survey of Academic Freedom Issues in 2015: Continental Europe:

Part 15: Global Survey of Academic Freedom Issues in 2015: Mexico and Cuba:

Part 16: Global Survey of Academic Freedom Issues in 2015: Sub-Saharan Africa, Part 1:

Part 17: Global Survey of Academic Freedom Issues in 2015: Sub-Saharan Africa, Part 2:

3 thoughts on “Global Survey of Academic Freedom Issues [Post 18 of a Series]

  1. Pingback: Global Survey of Academic Freedom Issues [Post 19 of a Series] | ACADEME BLOG

  2. Pingback: Global Survey of Academic Freedom Issues in 2015: [Post 20 of a Series] | ACADEME BLOG

Your comments are welcome. They must be relevant to the topic at hand and must not contain advertisements, degrade others, or violate laws or considerations of privacy. We encourage the use of your real name, but do not prohibit pseudonyms as long as you don’t impersonate a real person.