Extend researcher sanctuary scheme to Palestinians, MPs urge

Researchers at Risk programme currently limited to Ukrainian scholars

四月 2, 2024
War damage in Gaza
Source: iStock

Academics and politicians are calling for a UK government-funded scheme, originally designed for Ukrainian scholars, to be “urgently” expanded to Palestinians.

A parliamentary motion proposed by the former leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas, calling for the immediate expansion of the Researchers at Risk scheme in light of the Israel-Gaza war has been signed by 15 MPs so far.

Ms Lucas worked with a group of academics who were concerned by reports of devastating damage inflicted on Palestinian higher education during Israel’s retaliation for Hamas’ 7 October attacks.

Susan Bruce, English programme director at Keele University, said funding an extension of the scheme and reopening it specifically to Palestinian academics would provide a “lifeline to individuals in desperate need”.

“It would foster the development of long-term sustainable partnerships that might in time contribute to Gaza’s recovery,” she said.

“Schemes such as these should be driven primarily by humanitarian concerns; no one needs that humanitarian assistance more at the current moment than do Palestinians.”

The scheme was instituted by the British Academy, in collaboration with the Council for At-Risk Academics, to assist Ukrainian academics and their families.

It was funded mainly by government, with contributions from other foundations, and the conditions of its funding means that thus far the scheme has been restricted only to Ukrainians. It provides fellowships for selected researchers at UK universities.

Ms Lucas, who tabled the motion, told Times Higher Education that the UK has a proud tradition of providing a safe home to academic scholars whose lives are at risk.

“But right now, the academic community in Gaza is one of the most at risk in the world and the UK government is failing to provide any specific protection or assistance,” she said.

“That’s why I am leading calls in parliament for the government to renew funding for the Researchers at Risk scheme and open it up to Palestinian academics without delay and as a matter of urgency.”

The 15 politicians to have signed the motion to date include MPs from across the political spectrum, including the Labour Party, Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru.

Academics supporting the motion said that when Palestinians can leave Gaza, the right conditions need to be in place to allow them to rapidly relocate to a place of safety in an academic institution in the UK – for which government funding is crucial.

Calls to expand the scheme are not new, with Julian Lewis, the Conservative chair of the Joint Intelligence and Security Committee, arguing last year that the scheme should be opened to academics at risk in other countries.

A government spokesperson said the scheme was specifically set up to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We are keeping the programme, which is delivered by the British Academy, under close review,” they added.




  • 注册是免费的,而且十分便捷
  • 注册成功后,您每月可免费阅读3篇文章
  • 订阅我们的邮件
Please 登录 or 注册 to read this article.