Research projects

Current research projects

Project management: Prof. Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach

Staff: Alexandra Kaiser, Bun Koon

Duration: 1. July 2021 – 31. December 2023

Project description:

The project explores the legal and institutional framework of the “freedom indispensable for scientific research” as well as the empirical reality of this freedom in China. To understand the current opportunities and limits in the Chinese research and innovation system, it is necessary to examine academic freedom in the era of Xi Jinping from a socio-legal perspective. Our project focuses the institutional autonomy of Chinese universities, and on the freedom of academic exchange, which are both subdimensions of academic freedom as enshrined under international law. Taking international law as the benchmark, we are particularly interested in evaluating developments since President Xi Jinping assumed office in 2013. We analyze relevant primary sources, including statutory provisions, policy guidelines, political documents as well as statutes of select universities. Furthermore, we examine the empirical reality of institutional autonomy by undertaking case studies. Together with the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies, we will undertake a pilot bibliometric study to measure the freedom of academic exchange in different disciplines. Last but not least, we will conduct interviews and a survey amongst scholars. The project aims to broaden our understanding regarding the opportunities and limits of scientific collaboration with Chinese partners.

Project management: Prof. Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach; Prof. Dr. Eva Pils (KCL)

Staff: Dr. Eva Seiwert

Duration: 1. September 2021 – 29. February 2024

Project description:

In August 2021, the research project Academic Freedom, Globalised Scholarship and the Rise of Authoritarian China started under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach. The project is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The collaborative German-UK research project brings together a team of scholars working in the fields of law, political studies, Chinese area studies, human rights and moral philosophy. Together with our partners at King’s College London (KCL), we investigate how transnational authoritarian influence shapes concrete relationships of academic cooperation and exchange with academic actors in China. At FAU, the Research Associate in this project is Dr. Eva Seiwert.

In the context of today’s globalised scholarship, academic freedom faces novel threats. Autocracies, such as the Chinese one-party state, not only curtail academic freedom within their own borders, but also attempt to export censorship and other repressive practices to other states. Our project is driven by the insight that both empirical study and a normative assessment that can shape intelligent and legitimate responses to authoritarian, transnational pressure on academia are crucially needed. To this end, we will develop a systematic understanding of relevant norms and available responses to undue influence and infringements of academic freedom. We do not consider universities in liberal democracies as mere passive targets. Instead, we focus on studying the perspectives, decisions, and actions of UK and German actors engaging in academic collaboration with authoritarian China in a comparative way. Taking into account the different institutional designs of academia in both countries, we will design six comparative case studies, which will provide insight into existing difficulties in the cooperation of German and British academic actors with actors in China and possible solution approaches for these issues.

Project management: Prof. Dr. Tanja Börzel (FU), Prof. Mattias Kumm, S.J.D. (WZB) und Prof. Dr. Katrin Kinzelbach

Duration 1. September 2021 – 31. August 2024

Project description:

The project brings together the disciplinary perspectives of international relations and comparative politics with international and comparative constitutional law to analyze, assess and explain contestation of academic freedom around the world. We start by identifying the core content of academic freedom and how it relates to the liberal script. We then map patterns of contestation of academic freedom focusing on select case studies. We also seek to identify major causes before we explore some first consequences of academic freedom contestations.