Nearly 2,500 students and staff caught up in global attacks on HE

More than 750 students and staff killed, injured or abducted in two years, says report

June 20, 2024
Italian soldiers
Source: iStock/Cineberg

Almost 2,500 students and staff were killed, hurt or detained in attacks on global higher education over the past two years, according to new figures.

The 28 countries profiled in the report by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) recorded 360 incidents of attacks on higher education across 2022 and 2023.

These resulted in 760 students or staff being killed, injured or abducted, and over 1,700 detained or arrested – meaning more than 2,460 were affected.

Across 2020 and 2021, GCPEA recorded 320 attacks on higher education, resulting in 2,030 students or staff being killed or harmed.

The GCPEA had previously warned Times Higher Education that attacks on higher education were rising, amid increased repression of protests on campuses.

Of the attacks in the new report, about 100 were targeted at university facilities, while around 260 were towards university students and staff.

More than 35 attacks on facilities occurred in the Ukraine – the country whose universities were most targeted as a result of the invasion by Russia in 2022.

GCPEA said the attacks primarily took place in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, including a Russian missile strike which destroyed the Faculty of Economics at V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University in March 2022.

The figures do not cover the full extent of the damage done to the Palestinian sector by Israeli forces in 2024, but still include 28 separate attacks on higher education in the region in 2022 and 2023, which was almost double the number of the previous reported period.

The report found that Sudan and Yemen were also affected by attacks on higher education infrastructure.

“In places like Gaza, in addition to the horrific loss of life, education itself is under attack,” said Lisa Chung Bender, GCPEA’s executive director.

“School and university systems have been shut down, and in some cases completely destroyed. This will have long-term consequences on social and economic recovery, as the very infrastructure needed for peace and stability [has] been targeted.”

India saw the most attacks on higher education students and staff, with over 1,220 students and academics reportedly arrested or detained during education-related protests.

This followed a trend from the previous report, and included police using a water cannon against 200 students from the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Rohtak following a protest against increased course fees.

The report also showed that Turkey and Afghanistan had very high levels of attacks on students and staff.

GCPEA researchers also found that the military use of schools and universities by armed forces and non-state armed groups increased significantly in 2022 and 2023.

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