Rights group rejects proposed laws for student politics

A student rights group in Jordan has demanded the withdrawal of draft regulations governing ‘partisan activities’ – activities related to student politics and external political parties – in higher education institutions, arguing they contain no real changes to existing repressive institutional disciplinary systems and fail to guarantee the existence of elected student unions.

The National Campaign for Defending Students’ Rights (NCDSR – Thabahtoona) said in a 14 August statement that allowing “political activities” in universities does not require legislation, but a real will for reform represented in “reconsidering repressive disciplinary systems and allowing the establishment of elected student unions”.

It said the government’s draft regulations transform the role of dean of student affairs at universities into an administrative governor “with absolute powers to allow or ban any partisan activity” and even interfere in the details of the activity and amend it in terms of place, time, participants and the nature of the activity itself.

Furthermore, it said the regulations contain “no mention of obligating universities to allow the existence of elected student unions within universities. Rather, [they] indirectly gave universities the right not to allow the existence of elected student unions”.

There was no mention “of any amendments to the disciplinary systems that contradict the freedom of student activity and even criminalise it”, the statement said.

Broader legislative framework

The draft regulations approved by the Higher Education Council and expected to be endorsed by the cabinet, are part of the Political Parties Law enacted last March.

The regulations are in line with the Public Sector Modernization Roadmap 2022–24 published on 30 July which includes a plan for political reforms that will be based on a multiparty system in Jordan.

Speaking at a 15 August meeting with the deans of student affairs at public universities, Crown Prince of Jordan Al-Hussein bin Abdullah II was quoted as saying that universities are “pillars of political modernisation, as they are the incubators of young people with various political leanings”.

He underscored the role of the newly endorsed laws in enhancing the right of citizens, including university students, to engage in political work without restrictions or influence.

He noted the importance of unifying civic education curricula at public universities, and the need to plan specialised courses on political modernisation to be taught to students at the start of the coming academic year.

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