Plea for UK academic sector to give safe haven to colleagues

November 11, 2005

UK universities must pool their resources at home and abroad to offer support to academic refugees forced to flee their homelands, it was claimed this week.

The Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (Cara), based at London South Bank University, this week convened a conference for senior staff from across the UK with the aim of building a network of institutions prepared to help tackle a growing problem.

Cara has now joined forces with the US-based Scholars at Risk (SAR) network, which helps refugees principally by arranging temporary posts at network institutions, helping their applications for residency.

Deian Hopkin, Cara's vice-chairman and vice-chancellor of LSBU, said: "The scale of the issue is possibly larger than sometimes we are able to recognise because, on the whole, Cara can deal only with people who have already secured residency in this country.

"We want to have a sector-wide approach where everybody chips in a little bit to help people coming from environments where they are prevented or inhibited from developing their full potential as academics."

This week SAR director Rob Quinn, who is also executive director of the Institute of International Education Scholar Rescue Fund, launched the 2006 fellowship for threatened scholars worldwide. He said: "We are especially eager to identify candidates still facing threats in their home country or region.

"At the same time, we invite participation from universities and colleges that might be willing to host fellowship recipients.

"We are especially eager to identify universities and colleges outside the US."

John Akker, Cara's executive secretary, said universities were often a prime target under authoritarian regimes, with academics and their families threatened and tortured.

He said: "Despite the decrease in absolute terms in asylum-seekers, the demand for our work among academic refugees is increasing."

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