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Scholars at Risk

Scholars at Risk
FounderRobert Quinn
Founded atUniversity of Chicago
Purposeto protect scholars and promote academic freedom
HeadquartersNew York University

Scholars at Risk (SAR) is a United States-based international network of academic institutions organized to support and defend the principles of academic freedom[1] and to defend the human rights of scholars around the world. Network membership includes over 530 higher educational institutions in 42 countries.[2]


Scholars at Risk was founded as part of a Human Rights Program in the University of Chicago in 1999 where it launched with a large conference in June 2000. It has its headquarters in the Greenwich Village campus of New York University. Rob Quinn is the executive director of Scholars at Risk.[2]

Scholars at Risk receives the Anne Frank Award 2017 -director Rob Quinn

In 2001, Scholars at Risk joined with other international education and human rights organizations to launch the Network for Education and Academic Rights (NEAR).[3] When NEAR disbanded SAR continued this work through its Academic Freedom Media Review, Scholars-in-Prison Project[4] and Academic Freedom Monitoring Project.[5]

In 2002, SAR partnered with the Institute of International Education which was then establishing IIE's Scholar Rescue Fund.[6] The Fund provides financial support to scholars facing grave threats so that they may escape dangerous conditions and continue their academic work in safety.[6]

In 2003, the network headquarters relocated from the University of Chicago to the New York City campus of New York University.[6] In 2005, SAR and partners began organizing SAR 'sections' and 'partner networks' around the world, building a global community pledged to help scholars and promote academic freedom everywhere.[7]

From 2007 to 2010, SAR led a series of workshops to provide a safe, open forum for academics and advocates from around the world to discuss the regional dimensions of academic freedom and the challenges faced, and to develop joint responses. These led to the development of an academic freedom curriculum and in 2011 to the Academic Freedom Advocacy Team, which researched protection for academic freedom under international human rights law.[8]

In 2012, SAR launched the Academic Freedom Monitoring Project,[5] through which volunteer researchers document attacks on higher education in specific countries or regions which are then published in a report. The first Free to Think report was published in 2015[9] and since then it has been published annually.[10][11]

In 2014, SAR formalized the Student Advocacy Seminar, an initiative through which faculty researchers help students develop research and advocacy skills while investigating attacks on higher education communities.[12]


SAR's activities are organized under three main pillars: Protection, Advocacy and Learning.[2]


SAR arranges for positions of sanctuary at universities and colleges in the network for intellectuals fleeing persecution and violence. Scholars are referred to the network for assessment, referrals or transition assistance.[13]


Scholars at Risk advocates on behalf of academics, writers, artists, and other intellectuals who are threatened in their home countries. SAR organizes global campaigns to support imprisoned scholars and students.[4] It engages students in Student Advocacy Seminars and Legal Clinics to learn real-world research and advocacy skills. Adam Braver at Roger Williams University is the Coordinator of the Advocacy Seminars. In the US Student Advocacy Days are also organized.[14] SAR also conducts research with a network of volunteer researchers for the Academic Freedom Monitoring Project.[5]

In 2017 Scholars at Risk supported the production of We Are Syrians book that included the stories of three Syrian women's experiences in the Syria Civil War.[15]

Academic Freedom Monitoring Project

The monitoring project collects data on defined attacks on higher education.[5] These are gathered by contributing researchers who report and analyze incidents, track down sources and witnesses and help to develop advocacy responses.[16] Every year the Free to Think report is published highlighting these incidents.[17]


SAR organizes various activities which support learning about academic freedom, including annual global conference and its largest international convening, the Global Congress,[18] faculty/researcher workshops, SAR Speaker series, research groups, workshops on promoting higher education values. SAR has recently created a MOOC called Dangerous Questions in collaboration with the University of Oslo.[19]

Some scholars who SAR has advocated or is advocating for


In 2003, the network headquarters relocated from the University of Chicago to the New York City campus of New York University. In 2018 a European office was opened in Ireland at Maynooth University.[21] SAR has sections in different countries which coordinate activities for domestic SAR members.[22]

SAR Sections

In 2005, SAR and partners began organizing SAR 'sections' and 'partner networks' around the world, building a global community pledged to help scholars and promote academic freedom everywhere. SAR sections were established in Israel (2005, now dormant), the United Kingdom (2006, with CARA), the Netherlands (2009, with UAF), Ireland (2009, with Universities Ireland), Norway (2011), Canada (2012), Switzerland (2015), Sweden (2016), Germany (2016), Finland (2017), United States (2018), Denmark (2019), Italy (2019), and Slovakia (2019), while partner networks were formed with pre-existing higher education networks in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.[22]

Section Year established
SAR Canada[23] 2012
SAR United States[24] 2018
SAR Norway[25] 2011
CARA-SAR UK Universities network[26]
SAR Ireland[27] 2009
SAR Sweden[28] 2016
SAR Switzerland[29] 2017
UAF-SAR Netherlands and Belgium[30]
SAR Germany[31] 2016
SAR Finland[32][33] 2017
SAR Denmark[34] 2019
SAR Italy[35] 2019
SAR Slovakia[36] 2019

Affiliations and partnerships

Scholars at Risk maintains affiliations and partnerships with other associations and organizations with related objectives.

SAR has formed the following Partner Networks:

EUA-SAR Partner Network: With 850 members across 47 countries, the European University Association is the largest and most comprehensive organisation representing universities in Europe. 17 million students are enrolled at EUA member universities. As the voice of Europe's universities, EUA supports and takes forward the interests of individual institutions and the higher education sector as a whole.[37]

Magna Charta Observatory: In September 2015, Scholars at Risk and Magna Charta agreed to create a formal partner network including 802 universities in 85 countries.

UNICA-SAR Partner Network: UNICA is a network of 46 universities from 35 capital cities of Europe. Its role is to promote academic excellence, integration and cooperation between member universities throughout Europe. It seeks also to be a driving force in the development of the Bologna process and to facilitate the integration of universities from Central and Eastern Europe into the European Higher Education Area.[38]

Compostela Group of Universities: Founded in 1993, the Compostela Group of Universities is an international nonprofit association that now consists of more than 60 universities in 27 countries. CGU seeks to strengthen the channels of communication between its member universities; organize events for the study and discussion of different issues related to international higher education; and promote mobility and collaboration between members as a basis for enhancing the knowledge of cultures and languages.

Communauté Université Grenoble Alpes: The Communauté Université Grenoble Alpes (COMUE) joined SAR as a partner network in January 2017. COMUE was formed in France in December 2014 and is composed of six member and four associated higher education institutions. Its mission is to create a multidisciplinary research university with a high international profile and strong local connection that creatively serves society.

swissuniversities: In 2012, universities, universities of applied sciences and universities of teacher education across Switzerland founded swissuniversities, a body dedicated to strengthening and enhancing collaboration among Swiss institutions of higher education and promoting a common voice on educational issues. swissuniversities also coordinates tasks and acts on the international level as the Swiss national rectors' conference for its 30-plus members.[39]

Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences: The academies engage themselves specifically for an equitable dialogue between science and society, and they advise politics and society in science-based issues that are relevant to society. They represent sciences across institutions and disciplines. Established in the scientific community, they have access to expertise and excellence and can therefore contribute specific knowledge to important political questions.

Consortium for North American Higher Education Collaboration: The Consortium for North American Higher Education (CONAHEC) fosters collaboration among institutions, organizations and agencies of higher education in Canada, Mexico, the United States, and around the world. CONAHEC develops programs and educational opportunities to prepare globally knowledgeable professionals able to contribute to the region's continued success and a better world.

Academy for Research and Higher Education (ARES): As the federation of francophone universities in the Wallonie region of southern Belgium, ARES coordinates the activities of 127 higher education institutions. ARES supports the participation and development of its member institutions in their local and international collaborations by promoting the international visibility of higher education.

International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion (IMISCOE): IMISCOE is a European network of scholars in the area of migration and integration and works on comparative research and publications which are published in the IMISCOE book series and the CMS journal. IMISCOE has a solidarity fund and uses it to support their member institutes to host researchers under threat. To this end it has become a member of SAR.[40] IMISCOE contributes to the training of young researchers and their exchange throughout Europe. Also, IMISCOE plays an important role in the mutual dialogue between researchers and society (policy, politics, civil society).

European Students' Union (ESU): The European Students' Union (ESU) is the umbrella organisation of 46 National Unions of Students (NUS) from 39 countries. The aim of ESU is to represent and promote the educational, social, economic and cultural interests of students at the European level towards all relevant bodies and in particular the European Union, Bologna Follow Up Group, Council of Europe and UNESCO. Through its members, ESU represents around 15 million students in Europe.[41]

Mexican Association for International Education (AMPEI): The Mexican Association for International Education (Asociación Mexicana para la Educación Internacional) is a non-profit membership organization which aims to strengthen the academic quality of Mexican institutions of higher education through internationalization and international cooperation.

International Association of La Salle Universities (IALU): IALU is an effective instrument to strengthen Lasallian Higher Education, promote the development of the universities in its network and encourage individual and collective response to the expectations and requests made to universities.[42]



  • Free To Think 2023, October 31, 2023[43]
  • Obstacles to Excellence: Academic Freedom & China’s Quest for World Class Universities, September 24, 2019[44]

See also


  1. ^ Butler, Judith (2017-09-19). "Academic Freedom and the Critical Task of the University". Globalizations. 14 (6): 857–861. doi:10.1080/14747731.2017.1325168. ISSN 1474-7731. S2CID 148759682.
  2. ^ a b c "Scholars at Risk | Protecting scholars and the freedom to think, question, and share ideas". Scholars at Risk. Retrieved 2020-06-30.
  3. ^ Cohen, David (2001-07-19). "Network to preserve academic freedom launched". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-05-23.
  4. ^ a b "Scholars in Prison Project". Scholars at Risk. Retrieved 2020-06-21.
  5. ^ a b c d "Academic Freedom Monitoring Project Index". Scholars at Risk. Retrieved 2020-06-20.
  6. ^ a b c Arenson, Karen W. (2002-09-11). "A Group Seeks to Rescue Endangered Scholars". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-05-23.
  7. ^ Milton, Sansom (7 December 2017). Higher education and post-conflict recovery. Cham. ISBN 978-3-319-65349-5. OCLC 1015239716.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  8. ^ Quinn, Robert; Levine, Jesse (2014-11-17). "Intellectual-HRDs and claims for academic freedom under human rights law". The International Journal of Human Rights. 18 (7–8): 898–920. doi:10.1080/13642987.2014.976203. ISSN 1364-2987. S2CID 144993143.
  9. ^ "Free to Think: a Report of the Academic Freedom Monitoring Project". Scholars at Risk. 2016-04-15. Retrieved 2020-06-20.
  10. ^ "Free to think : report of the Scholars at Risk Academic Freedom Monitoring Project | ETICO - IIEP UNESCO | Platform on ethics and corruption in education". Retrieved 2020-05-23.
  11. ^ Academic freedom : the global challenge. Ignatieff, Michael,, Roch, Stefan. Budapest. 2017. ISBN 978-963-386-234-6. OCLC 1019844737.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) CS1 maint: others (link)
  12. ^ Refugees and asylum seekers : interdisciplinary and comparative perspectives. Berthold, S. Megan (Sarah Megan),, Libal, Kathryn, 1968-, Mollica, Richard F. Santa Barbara, California. 24 June 2019. p. 342. ISBN 978-1-4408-5496-5. OCLC 1103221731.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) CS1 maint: others (link)
  13. ^ "A Safe Haven for Scholars at Risk | News | The Harvard Crimson". Retrieved 2020-05-23.
  14. ^ "Students and faculty convene in DC to advocate on behalf of imprisoned scholars at SAR's Student Advocacy Days". Retrieved 2020-05-23.
  15. ^ Fitzpatrick, Edward (31 July 2017). ""We Are Syrians" Provides First-Hand Accounts of Battle Against Tyranny". The Week at Roger. Roger Williams University. Archived from the original on 29 May 2020.
  16. ^ "Academic Freedom Monitoring Project Index". Scholars at Risk. Retrieved 2020-06-21.
  17. ^ Abbott, Alison (2019-11-21). "Attacks on scholars worldwide raise concern". Nature. doi:10.1038/d41586-019-03582-5. PMID 33214723. S2CID 212953788.
  18. ^ "SAR 2020 Global Congress". Scholars at Risk. 2019-03-19. Retrieved 2020-06-21.
  19. ^ FutureLearn. "Dangerous Questions: Why Academic Freedom Matters - Online Course". FutureLearn. Retrieved 2020-06-21.
  20. ^ Ritter, Gretchen. "University Announces Visiting Faculty Appointment Through Scholars at Risk Network". Syracuse University News. Retrieved 23 November 2023.
  21. ^ O'Brien, Carl (14 October 2019). "European alliance for academics at risk to be based out of Maynooth University". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 14 October 2019. Retrieved 2020-05-23.
  22. ^ a b "SAR Sections". Scholars at Risk. Retrieved 2020-06-30.
  23. ^ "SAR-Canada". Scholars at Risk. 2016-04-15. Retrieved 2020-06-30.
  24. ^ "Why Scholars at Risk has opened a US section". Times Higher Education (THE). 2018-10-22. Retrieved 2020-06-21.
  25. ^ "SAR-Norway". Scholars at Risk. Retrieved 2020-06-30.
  26. ^ "Cara". Retrieved 2020-06-30.
  27. ^ "SAR-Ireland". Scholars at Risk. 2016-04-15. Retrieved 2020-06-30.
  28. ^ "SAR-Sweden". Scholars at Risk. Retrieved 2020-06-30.
  29. ^ "SAR Switzerland". Scholars at Risk. 2017-12-05. Retrieved 2020-06-30.
  30. ^ "Home - UAF". Retrieved 2020-06-30.
  31. ^ "SAR Germany". Retrieved 2020-06-30.
  32. ^ "Launch of Scholars at Risk Finland section". University of Jyväskylä, 2017-05-08. Retrieved 2021-04-11.
  33. ^ "Launch of Scholars at Risk Finland section". cholars at Risk, 2017-05-08. Retrieved 2021-04-11.
  34. ^ "SAR Denmark". Scholars at Risk. Retrieved 2020-06-30.
  35. ^ "SAR Italy". Scholars at Risk. 2019-03-25. Retrieved 2020-06-30.
  36. ^ "SAR". Policy is our passion. 2018-06-04. Retrieved 2020-06-30.
  37. ^ "SAR virtual conference: Free to Think 2020: Responding to Attacks on Higher Education, 19 – 20 November". Retrieved 2020-11-13.
  38. ^ "UNICA and SAR | UNICA - Network of Universities from the Capitals of Europe". Retrieved 2020-11-13.
  39. ^ "Geflüchtete - swissuniversities". Retrieved 2020-11-13.
  40. ^ "Solidarity Fund - IMISCOE". Retrieved 2020-11-18.
  41. ^ "The European Students' Union joins the Scholars at Risk Network". ESU Online. Retrieved 2020-11-13.
  42. ^ "IALU". Retrieved 2020-11-13.
  43. ^ "Free to Think 2023: Suppression of dissent and spread of illiberalism threatens academic freedom and endangers democracy". Scholars at Risk. 2023-10-31. Retrieved 2023-12-21.
  44. ^ "Obstacles to Excellence: Academic Freedom & China's Quest for World Class Universities". Scholars at Risk. 2019-09-24. Retrieved 2023-12-21.
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