WUS principles and action guidelines 1950 to 1988

As with any organisation, there have been changes of emphasis in World University Service over the decades. For an international organisation, with members in countries with different regimes, ideologies and priorities, ‘mission statements’ as they have come to be known have been hard to develop to encompass the entire organisation which had over 50 member countries at its peak. However, fundamental to the organisation from its inception has been a deep concern for those involved in post-compulsory education and the right to its access regardless of race, gender, politics or religion. Other major concerns have been academic freedom, but also the responsibilities of those with higher education to their communities. The 1968 Juelsminde Statement is a forceful summary of those responsibilities, extended beyond national boundaries and recognising the need for educational reform to prepare students for critical social involvement. The 1988 Lima Declaration takes this further, locating the activities of WUS firmly in the framework of human rights, especially the right to education, an underlying commitment still valid in the extant WUS committees today.

1968 – The Juelsminde Statement on the role of students in development

The report of the 1968 Juelsminde Seminar states that “The International Seminar on ‘The Role of Students in development’ brought together 45 student representatives of 24 nations and all continents. Participants examined present day student attitudes to the subject and made recommendations for future action by students to bring about a greater awareness of both development problems and of their possible solution. The Seminar considered these topics under three main headings: the role of the student in education for development, the role of the student in material assistance programming and implementation, and the role of the student in voluntary service activities and cultural exchange programs.

Held in Juelsminde, Denmark, 24-31 July 1968, the Seminar was organised by World University Service, the International Student Movement for the United Nations (ISMUN) and the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA). It was sponsored by the government of Denmark and the Foundation for International Student Cooperation which enabled 50% of participants to be representatives of what was described as “so-called ‘developing’ areas”.

Prior to the Seminar, a group of 8 students from WUS and ISMUN prepared and printed a “Student Guide to Action for Development” and WUS, with assistance from the Action for Development Section of the UN Food & Agriculture Organisation “Options for Student Action for Development in Asia” was also produced, largely based on work by WUS student groups in The Philippines and India and edited by Robin Burns for WUS. The Freedom from Hunger Campaign of FAO sponsored both publications.

The Juelsminde Statement was initially distributed as a press release on 31 July. There was further    collaboration on the issues with Action for Development of FAO and in 1974 WUS undertook for them a survey of development education in post-secondary education in Europe, Australasia and North America (“Higher Education and Third World Development Issues. An International Comparative Study”), undertaken and edited by Robin Burns.

The Juelsminde statement

1. We, a group of individual students associated with IFMSA, WUS and ISMUN, coming from all continents and meeting in Juelsminde, Denmark in July 1968, believe that the world is hurtling towards a major catastrophe resulting from the injustice, prejudice and ignorance fatally dividing the world into hostile camps of rich and poor nations.

2. We project that within our lifetime this catastrophe will befall the vast majority of the world’s    peoples unless drastic action is taken to eradicate the inhuman conditions under which most of these people now exist.

3. We believe this action to effect change must be undertaken by peoples and governments together on a massive scale in an effort far greater than we now see.

4. We must instill in all people, but particularly young people – our generation – a greater knowledge and fuller understanding of the economic and social problems of this world and their inevitable consequences. Young people must be trained in coming years as citizens of the world.

5. We recognise that attitudes must be radically changed in order to motivate a more positive and revolutionary approach to these problems. Students must be in the vanguard of the struggle for the complete elimination of poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy and ignorance. In this struggle, public opinion must be mobilised through political action.

6. We call for the reform of educational systems to promote a social consciousness among students which will produce such awareness of national and international responsibilities as to lead to a true social, political and economic revolution.

7. We pledge ourselves to work for the implementation of the recommendations elaborated by the Juelsminde Seminar. We ask all students to join us in urging governments, universities and international organisations to implement the conclusions and recommendations of this seminar. 1988 – The Lima Declaration on Academic Freedom and Autonomy of Institutions of Higher Education

The former WUS International Officer in Charge of Human Rights, Laksiri Fernando, states that addressing the concerns for human rights of WUS committees and their countries has a long history with WUS International. This was assisted by its Consultative status with ECOSOC and UNESCO and participation in the UN Commission and Sub-Commission on Human Rights. In 1984 the Nantes General Assembly of WUS approved an Academic Solidarity and Cooperation (ASAC) program whose main achievement was the Lima Declaration on Academic Freedom and Autonomy of Institutions of Higher Education, drafted by Manfred Nowak (WUS Austria) and finalised at the 1988 Lima General Assembly by Manfred, Nigel Hartley (then WUS Secretary-General) and Mark Thomson (Programme Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean). The Declaration is the explicit basis for WUS Austria’s continuing activity today and implicitly for the other extant WUS committees, as it was for others in the past. It continues to be extensively cited in both academic work on the subject and in international meetings on human rights especially with respect to the right to education.

The Preamble states:

The sixty-eighth General Assembly of World University Service, meeting in Lima from 6 to 10 September 1988, the year of the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

Bearing in mind the extensive set of international standards in the field of human rights which the United Nations and other universal and regional organizations have established, in particular the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education,

 Convinced that universities and academic communities have an obligation to pursue the fulfillment of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights of the people, Recognizing the essential vulnerability of the academic community to political and economic pressure,

Affirming the following principles pertaining to education:

a. Every human being has the right to education.

b. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall strengthen the respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and peace. Education shall enable all persons to participate effectively in the construction of a free and egalitarian society, and promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic or religious groups. Education shall promote mutual understanding, respect and equality between men and women. Education shall be a means to understand and contribute to the achievement of the major goals of contemporary society such as social equality, peace, equal development of all nations and the protection of the environment.

c. Every State should guarantee the right to education without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic condition, birth or other status. Every State should make available an adequate proportion of its national income to ensure in practice the full realization of the right to education.

d. Education shall be an instrument of positive social change. As such, it should be relevant to the social, economic, political and cultural situation of any given country, contribute to the transformation of the status quo towards the full attainment of all rights and freedoms, and be subject to permanent evaluation.

Proclaims this Declaration:


1. For the purposes of this declaration a. “Academic freedom” means the freedom of members of the academic community, individually or collectively, in the pursuit, development and transmission of knowledge, through research, study, discussion, documentation, production, creation, teaching, lecturing and writing.

b. “Academic community” covers all those persons teaching, studying, researching and working at an institution of higher education,

c. “Autonomy” means the independence of institutions of higher education from the State and all other forces of society, to make decisions regarding its internal government, finance, administration, and to establish its policies of education, research, extension work and other related activities  

d. “Institutions of higher education” comprise universities, other centres of post-secondary education and centres of research and culture associated with them.

2. The above-mentioned definitions do not imply that the exercise of academic freedom and autonomy is not subject to limitations as established in the present Declaration. Academic Freedom

3. Academic freedom is an essential pre-condition for those educational, research, administrative and service functions with which universities and other institutions of higher education are entrusted. All members of the academic community have the right to fulfill their functions without discrimination of any kind and without fear of interference or repression from the State or any other source.

4. States are under an obligation to respect and to ensure to all members of the academic community, those civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights recognized in the United Nations Covenants on Human Rights. Every member of the academic community shall enjoy, in particular, freedom of thought, conscience, religion, expression, assembly and association as well as the right to liberty and security of person and liberty of movement.

5. Access to the academic community shall be equal for all members of society without any hindrance. On the basis of ability, every person has the right, without discrimination of any kind, to become part of the academic community, as a student, teacher, researcher, worker or administrator. Temporary measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality for disadvantaged members of the academic community shall not be considered as discriminatory, provided that these measures are discontinued when the objectives of equality of opportunity and treatment have been achieved. All States and institutions of higher education shall guarantee a system of stable and secure employment for teachers and researchers. No member of the academic community shall be dismissed without a fair hearing before a democratically elected body of the academic community.

6. All members of the academic community with research functions have the right to carry out research work without any interference, subject to the universal principles and methods of scientific enquiry. They also have the right to communicate the conclusions of their research freely to others and to publish them without censorship.

7. All members of the academic community with teaching functions have the right to teach without any interference, subject to the accepted principles, standards and methods of teaching.

8. All members of the academic community shall enjoy the freedom to maintain contact with their counterparts in any part of the world as well as the freedom to pursue the development of their educational capacities.

9. All students of higher education shall enjoy freedom of study, including the right to choose the field of study from available courses and the right to receive official recognition of the knowledge and experience acquired. Institutions of higher education should aim to satisfy the professional needs and aspirations of the students. States should provide adequate resources for students in need to pursue their studies.

10. All institutions of higher education shall guarantee the participation of students in their governing bodies. All States and institutions of higher education shall respect the right of students, individually or collectively, to express opinions on  any national and international question.

11. States should take all appropriate measures to plan, organize and implement a higher education system without fees for all secondary education graduates and other people who might prove their ability to study effectively at that level.

12. All members of the academic community have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of their interests. The unions of all sectors of the academic communities should participate in the formulation of their respective professional standards.

13. The exercise of the rights provided above carries with it special duties and responsibilities and may be subject to certain restrictions necessary for the protection of the rights of others. Teaching and research shall be conducted in full accordance with professional standards and shall respond to contemporary problems facing society. Autonomy of Institutions of Higher Education

14. All institutions of higher education shall pursue the fulfillment of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights of the people and shall strive to prevent the misuse of science and technology to the detriment of those rights.

15. All institutions of higher education shall address themselves to the contemporary problems facing society. To this end, the curricula of these institutions, as well as their activities shall respond to the needs of society at large. Institutions of higher education should be critical of conditions of political repression and violations of human rights within their own society.

16. All institutions of higher education shall provide solidarity to other such institutions and individual members of their academic communities when they are subject to persecution. Such solidarity may be moral or material, and should include   refuge and employment or education for victims of persecution.

17. All institutions of higher education should strive to prevent scientific and technological dependence and to promote equal partnership of all academic communities of the world in the pursuit and use of knowledge. They should encourage international academic cooperation which transcends regional, political and other barriers.

18. The proper enjoyment of academic freedom and the compliance with the responsibilities mentioned in the foregoing articles demand a high degree of autonomy of institutions of higher education. States are under an obligation not to interfere with the autonomy of institutions of higher education as well as to prevent interference by other forces of society.

19. The autonomy of institutions of higher education shall be exercised by democratic means of self-government, which includes the active participation of all members of the respective academic communities. All members of the academic community shall have the right and opportunity, without discrimination of any kind, to take part in the conduct of academic and administrative affairs. All governing bodies of institutions of higher education shall be freely elected and shall comprise members of the different sectors of the academic community. The autonomy should encompass decisions regarding administration and determination of policies of education, research, extension work, allocation of resources and other related activities

Author profile
Robin Burns

Dr. Robin Burns was a member of the WUS Australia national committee from 1965 to 1969. She was the Australian delegate to the international general assemblies in 1966, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1974 and 1978 and member of the international executive from 1972 to 1976. Her PhD topic on development education grew from her WUS involvement and she taught that and related topics in a 27-year academic career in Comparative Education. She then moved on to Women’s Studies and Public Health. Her final research project was a field study of scientific work in remote locations: Antarctica, the Namib Desert, Uzbekistan and the Altai Republic.