Welcome to the first national Scholars at Risk Finland (SARF) Day!


The very first Scholars at Risk Finland (SARF) Day will take place at the University of Turku on 25 November from 12:00-16:15. SARF is delighted to invite all interested parties – including academics, university staff, students, trade unionists, human rights activists, media representatives and others – to join this event.

Across the world, academic freedom is increasingly under threat as societies become more polarised politically and civil liberties are eroded. Between 1 September 2019 and 31 August 2020, 341 attacks on higher education communities in 58 countries were recorded (SAR 2020: 116-122). This marks an increase of over 5% from 2019’s 324 incidents (SAR 2019: 60-66) and of over 50% from the 158 incidents recorded five years ago (SAR 2016: 21-23). As a result, more scholars than ever are urgently requesting assistance.

Established in 2017, Scholars at Risk Finland is part of the international Scholars at Risk network, which campaigns to defend academic freedom and uphold academics’ rights to free enquiry. Within Finland, many universities have supported this work by undertaking actions such as hosting threatened scholars by offering them research or teaching positions, undertaking lobbying activities and raising awareness. They will unite to organise the first SARF Day.

SARF Day will bring together government officials, representatives of Nordic universities and other organisations to review the current state of academic freedom and share their first-hand experience of working with scholars at risk. The opening remarks will be given by Jukka Kola, Rector of the University of Turku and Martin Cloonan, Chair of SAR Finland and Director of Turku Institute for Advanced Studies (TIAS). Joining the event remotely and discussing contemporary issues will be Atte Jääskeläinen, Director General of the Ministry of Education and Culture. Talking about the importance of academic freedom and the Bonn Declaration will be Veera Launis, Science Secretary at the Council of Finnish Academies.

The event will also see the launch of the SARF Lecture Series, to be opened by Majid Mgamis, a Jordanian scholar who has suffered from violation of his academic rights in his home country. The title of his lecture is The Three Taboos: Academic Freedom in the Face of Absolute Truth. Moderating the Q&A session will be Magdalena Kmak, Professor of Public International Law at Åbo Akademi University and University Researcher at the University of Helsinki.

There will also be a panel discussion where experts from various organisations will tackle topics such as raising awareness, hosting, funding, and talent retention. Issues for debate here include:

  • What can we do to stop the violation of academic freedom?
  • How can we provide support to researchers who face serious threats in their work and lives?
  • How can we support threatened scholars so that they can continue to work safely as part of the international academic community?

SARF Chair, Professor Martin Cloonan said:

“I am delighted that the University of Turku is hosting the first SARF Day. As academic freedom is continually eroded across the world, it is excellent to see Finnish universities coming together to stand up for values which underpin all academic work.”


Members of the media are welcome to join us for an eye-opening learning experience about the threats to academic freedom. SARF Day will be an unparalleled opportunity to learn how Finland and other Nordics are tackling this global issue.

TIME: Thursday 25 November 2021 (12:00-16:15, GMT+3)

PLACE: University of Turku, Agora hall XXII, Vesilinnantie 3, Turku (and online!)

Read more about the event: https://www.utu.fi/en/university/international-networks/SARF-Day

Please register no later than 21 November​: https://konsta.utu.fi/Default.aspx?tabid=88&tap=11301

For more information, please contact:

Kristaps Kovaļonoks

Planning Assistant, International Partnerships & Research Assessment


Martin Cloonan

Chair, SARF

martin.cloonan@utu.fi, 0504645411

Created 28.10.2021 | Updated 01.11.2021