TIAS and Scholars at Risk by Kimi Kärki

Kimi Kärki, Post-doctoral Research Fellow at TIAS

Scholars at Risk (SAR) is an international network of academic institutions, organised to support and defend the principles of academic freedom and to defend the human rights of scholars around the world. It is coordinated from the United States of America, originally established in University of Chicago in 1999, and nowadays based in New York University. The network membership now includes more than 500 academic institutions in 39 countries. Scholars at Risk also maintains affiliations and partnerships with other associations and organizations with related objectives, including e.g. Academy for Research and Higher Education, Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP), Colonial Academic Alliance, Communauté Université Grenoble Alpes, Compostela Group of Universities, Consortium for North American Higher Education Collaboration (CONAHEC), European Students Union (ESU), European Universities Association (EUA), International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion (IMISCOE), Magna Charta Observatory, Swissuniversities, Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, and Network of Universities from the Capitals of Europe (UNICA).
Scholars at Risk advocates on behalf of academics, writers, artists, and other intellectuals who are threatened in their home countries. Perhaps as the most concrete action it arranges for positions of sanctuary at universities and colleges in the network for intellectuals fleeing persecution and violence.

Finland has been involved since 2017, and some individual universities have been involved even longer. The Finnish SAR network is co-chaired by University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University until the end of 2019. In this initial three year phase UNIFI Secretariat has been handling a lot of the practical work, and most of the Finnish universities — eleven, ten of which are sustaining members — are now members of the network.

During the next years, Turku Institute for Advanced Studies will make Scholars at Risk activities part of its agenda and will hopefully take an important role in the future network activities. TIAS has received profiling funding for SAR activity, and it also likely that SAR will be noted in the strategy of University of Turku for 2021–2030.

What would this mean for the human sciences departments involved in TIAS? Or even individual researchers? A big part of SAR work is advocacy, spreading information on the related human rights issues. This is something we all can do via our established networks and social media activity, for example by spreading awareness on the violations reported in Academic Freedom Monitoring (link provided at the end of the blog). The biggest department level contribution, obviously, would be to give sanctuary to a threatened scholar. Even during the short involvement with the network, several Finnish universities have indeed done so already, either by investing their own or separately applied funding. The most important funding mechanism is the Scholar Rescue Fund (administered by the Institute of International Education, IIE), which offers grants via the Finnish National Agency for Education (EDUFI). We are developing detailed instructions for the TIAS affiliated departments willing to take part. Meanwhile, feel free to contact me for additional information (kimi.karki (at) utu.fi).

Kimi Kärki
Post-doctoral Research Fellow at TIAS

Relevant links

Scholars at Risk:

Academic Freedom Monitoring:

Scholar Rescue Fund:

Instructions for applying SRF grants via EDUFI:
https://www.oph.fi/fi/ohjelmat/scholar-rescue-fund (in Finnish)

Launching of the Finnish network in 2017:

The latest summary report of Scholars at Risk:


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