Record number of academics rescued from conflict countries to work at UK universities

British charity has seen a 50 per cent increase in the number of people it has been helping since 2021

A British charity has helped academics escape the war in Ukraine and relocate to the UK. Oleksandr Lapshyn
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A British charity which helps rescue academics from conflict zones to bring them to the UK has supported a record number of people this year.

The Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara) has seen a 50 per cent increase in the number of people it has been helping since 2021 and the highest number in its 90 year history.

Since January it has helped bring 225 people to the UK to gain placements at British universities compared to 151 in 2021.

The numbers include more than 40 academics from Afghanistan and 90 of their family members.

It has been working in 17 countries, including Afghanistan, Sudan, and Iraq.

One female academic, who cannot be identified for safety reasons, was supported by Cara when she fled Afghanistan following the Taliban's ban on females in education.

"Since the Taliban takeover, all UK visa centres in Afghanistan have closed, requiring Afghan Fellows to travel to a third country," she told The National.

"I was able to travel to Iran to apply for a UK student visa accompanied by my father. Due to the Taliban's harsh restrictions on women being unable to travel without a male chaperone, I would not have been able to make this treacherous journey without my father's support. I had to wait longer than expected to receive my visa outcome, due to delays which led to me having to pay fines for overstaying my Iran visa.

"I started my PhD placement in Management at Cardiff Metropolitan University and I am incredibly grateful to Cara for the support they have provided me with, throughout my journey to academic freedom.”

The charity has helped more than 210 Ukrainian academics and a number of Russian academics who have stood up to Putin and reject the war to gain places at the UK’s leading universities, including the University of Oxford, University College London, Durham University, and others.

These academics are being supported by Cara both directly and through Cara’s close engagement with the UK government funded British Academy-led Researchers at Risk programme.

Now in its 90th year, Cara works to provide temporary safe havens for scholars fleeing violence, repression, and threats to intellectual and individual freedom.

The charity supports their escape, and often that of their families, using its extensive network of contacts to help them to find top academic placements around the UK, putting together a package of funding support and practical arrangements, including visas sponsored by the host universities, to enable them to continue their work in safety.

Universities praised

The vast majority of rescued Ukrainian academics are women and many of them are alone or with small children, having had to leave their husbands, partners, and other family members behind.

Stephen Wordsworth, executive director of Cara, praised the British universities helping the charity.

"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," he said.

"In our 90th year, we are now receiving more requests for help than at any time since we were founded in the 1930s.

"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.

"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."

Cara was founded in 1933 by leading academics, scientists, and public figures in the UK to support academics fleeing Nazi persecution.

Updated: September 21, 2023, 3:35 PM