University Autonomy as a Constitutional Guarantee of Fundamental Rights

This communication is the result of research on whether the epistemic roles and duties performed by universities are related to the protection of democracy and the rule of law. While there is a more obvious intertwinement between academic freedom and fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of thought, we argue that there is a deeper, symbiotic connection between university autonomy and democracy as a whole. On the one hand, due to requirements set by epistemic standards, universities rely on the autonomy that democratic systems grant them for performing to their full potential; on the other hand, we argue, autonomous universities become a watchdog for democracy and a space of resistance against authoritarian government attacks. This, we conclude, is sufficient to justify university autonomy as a true constitutional fundamental right (owned by society as a whole), and as a constitutional guarantee for the protection of other, related fundamental rights.