Record demand for scholar charity in 90-year history

Published 31/10/2023

A UK-based charity tasked with rescuing academics at risk from persecution, violence and conflict has reported that appeals for help are now at their highest point in its 90-year history.

Cara says that conflicts in Ukraine and the situation in areas such as the Middle East, Sudan and Afghanistan have added to demand from academics fleeing persecution.

The organisation, founded in the 1930s to support academics and scientists escaping Nazi persecution, is now “receiving more requests for help than at any time” since it was founded, according to executive director Stephen Wordsworth.

More than 60 UK universities are supporting 210+ – mainly female as men are largely banned from leaving the country – at-risk Ukrainian academics, as well as 10 Russian academics who have confronted Putin and rejected the war.

“The Ukraine conflict is just one example; there are many other countries too where academics face heightened risks from conflict, or oppression, imprisonment, and murder at the hands of despotic regimes and extremist groups who see free-thinking academics as a threat,” Wordsworth said.

A new Scholars at Risk report has also found that more than 400 separate attacks have been perpetrated against academia in the past year, with attacks concentrated in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iran, China and Myanmar.

As well as close engagement with the UK government-funded, British Academy-led Researchers at Risk program, Cara supports the scholars’ escape and finds top academic placements around the UK with practical arrangements – including visas sponsored by the host universities.

Scholars are also often joined by family members. Until 2021, the majority of individuals coming to Cara in recent years were from the Middle East and Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Afghanistan and Ukraine, in addition to countries in Asia and Africa, have been more represented since 2022, Wordsworth has previously said.

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, Cara has brought over 40 Afghan Fellows with more than 90 family members to the safety of fully funded placements at UK universities.

In total, 170 Cara Fellows from 17 different countries are at UK universities.

“UK universities are leading the way in providing support for some of the world’s most gifted minds. It is the generous support of these universities which enables us to continue our mission to rescue these threatened academics from grave danger around the world,” Wordsworth added.

“These are enormously talented individuals who bring unique experience and knowledge to the UK, forging lasting partnerships that will prove invaluable when it becomes safe for them to return home and rebuild their countries.”

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