IFUT’s first involvement with international organisations was with the International Association of University Professors and Lecturers (IAUPL) – Association Internationale des Professeurs et Maitres de Conference des Universités.
The AUT in Britain was responsible for the first moves to create an international body to represent the professional interests of academic staff in the universities. These moves came to fruition during the war years, helped on by the many academic staff that had fled from European universities to escape Nazi persecution. The formation of the IAUPL was proposed at a meeting, convened by the AUT in Oxford, in 1943 and it was formally established the following year. Its objectives were inspired by the damages inflicted on universities during the war years and, more specifically, were to promote the principles of academic freedom and the international dimensions of the university world.
IAUPL was one of the earliest groups affiliated to UNESCO and later established relations with the Council of Europe and with the EU. It had cordial links with the World Conference of Organisations of the Teaching Profession (WCOTP) which catered for teachers in primary and secondary schools. At a time when world trade union organisation was split between the Communist bloc World Federation of Trade Unions and the western oriented International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, IAUPL was one of the few international groupings which maintained membership on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
The organisation of IAUPL centred on national sections which consisted of individual named organisations within each member country. This did not present a problem in countries such as the UK or Denmark, where one strong organisation existed to represent the whole university sector; in countries such as France where different trade unions or professional associations were organised along political or ideological lines, it was a potential source of friction. At the time when IFUT became involved with IAUPL there were national sections from South Africa, Germany, the UK, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Holland, Switzerland and Yugoslavia. There was provision also for membership from individuals or groups.
IAUPL had an executive committee, and a Central Council which met annually and a triennial Congress, There was also a European Liaison Committee. Its secretariat was based in the UK in its first decades but later it moved to France – helped by the financial support given to it by the French government. It published an annual journal – Communication.
IFUT was introduced to the IAUPL in the mid-1960s and began to send delegates to its annual Council meetings, although the limited financial resources of the Federation at that time usually limited its participation to those members of IFUT Council who could arrange independent support for their travels. It eventually applied for formal membership and was admitted as the Irish section in 1973. The IFUT Constitution then was amended to make its affiliation to IAUPL, a formal part of the IFUT structure. From that time an IFUT member was invariably elected to the Executive Committee. Members who served in that capacity were Enda McDonagh, Joe Hanly and Paddy O’Flynn, each of whom was an ex-President of the Federation.
Annual meetings of IAUPL were attended by delegates from UNESCO, the Council of Europe and from DG XII of the EU, who would report on matters relevant to the affairs of the Association and receive representations from its members. Apart from such official business, the primary recurring concern at meetings was with matters of academic freedom. The major issue during IFUT’s time as a member was the situation in Malta where, after Malta obtained its independence from the UK, the Royal University of Malta was taken over by the Labour government and many academic staff dismissed. An IAUPL delegation visited Malta and also assisted in the relocation of some of the dismissed academic staff to positions in other countries.
IFUT continually urged that a formal policy on academic freedom should be adopted by the Association. This pressure led eventually to the establishment of a committee to prepare a statement on the meaning of academic freedom in the modern university world; Paddy O’Flynn of IFUT was the rapporteur for that committee. That work eventually resulted in the formal adoption of the Sienna Declaration on Academic Freedom at the annual meeting of IAUPL in Sienna in 1982.
IFUT’s membership of IAUPL came to an end over the issue of South African involvement in the organisation. Although, as mentioned above, there had been a formal membership of a South African section – represented by the University Teachers Association of South Africa (UTASA) – when IFUT joined the Association in 1973, there had been no attendance by any South African delegate during IFUT’s association with IAUPL. However, towards the end of the decade indications were received that UTASA intended to reactivate its membership. This was a particularly sensitive issue for IFUT whose President in 1974-75 had been Kader Asmal, the founder of the Irish Anti- Apartheid Association. The AUT was also strongly in favour of a boycott of any South African contacts and subsequently adopted a strict rule that no member of the AUT could attend any meeting at which a South African representative or delegate was present.
At a meeting of IAUPL in Pont-a-Mousson in 1979, the IFUT and AUT delegates formally proposed that UTASA should be excluded from membership. This issue was debated at a number of meetings over the next few years. One side to the debate argued that there was no provision in the IAUPL constitution whereby a member could be excluded while IFUT/AUT argued that such a provision must be implicit in the rules of any organisation which had formal rules for membership. In 1981, IFUT withdrew its offer to host the annual meeting of IAUPL in Dublin because of the possibility of a South African presence there. The issue came to a conclusion at the meeting in Sienna in 1972 with the non-acceptance by a majority of the IFUT/AUT argument whereupon IFUT and the AUT resigned from the organisation. The anti-apartheid position was supported by colleagues in Denmark and Germany. Opposition came particularly from national groups where the organisation representing the country had members primarily from the senior, professorial ranks.
Following its resignation from IAUPL, IFUT, particularly through its General Secretary, Daltún O Ceallaigh, began to work to promote the development of a more inclusive and less Eurocentric international association for academic staff.
- author, Paddy O'Flynn