Scholars at Risk (SAR) activities at the University of Turku

Established in 1999, Scholars at Risk (SAR) is an international network of higher education institutions and individuals working to protect threatened scholars and promote academic freedom and related values.

Today, there are more than 500 universities worldwide involved in a range of SAR activities, including arranging temporary academic positions for those forced to flee their home countries. The University of Helsinki is coordinating the network's activities in Finland during the period 2022–2023. The University of Turku has twice been the coordinator of the Finnish section.

SAR is committed to protecting threatened scholars and promoting academic freedom and related values worldwide. The University of Turku promotes the same values and actively participates in the network as well as collaborates with the Institute of International Education's Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF Alliance), which also promotes freedom of science and academic enquiry.

On this page, we demonstrate our University’s involvement in SAR activities and explain how you can also participate.

SAR motto: Protecting scholars and the freedom to think, question, and share ideas.

Introducing Scholars at Risk

The Scholars at Risk Finland (SARF) network

Established in 2017, Scholars at Risk Finland (SARF) is part of the international Scholars at Risk network. Since joining the network, many Finnish higher education institutions 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. All of Finland’s universities are currently members of SAR Finland.

SARF network is led by a rotating chair and is actively supported by its umbrella organisation, Universities Finland (UNIFI). Moreover, SARF recognises that more can be accomplished when organisations collaborate, therefore it maintains strong relationships with SAR International, SAR Europe, and SAR Nordic.

Over the years, the network in Finland has been coordinated as follows:

2017–2019: The University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University co-chaired the SARF network.

2020–2021: The University of Turku chaired the SARF network.

2022–2023: The University of Helsinki is chairing the SARF network.

The Institute of International Education's Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF)

The University of Turku is a member of the IIE-SRF Alliance, a global network of partners that provides practical support to threatened and displaced scholars, such as temporary academic positions, professional development and career advancement opportunities, and other services. The network facilitates information-sharing and collaboration between IIE-SRF and its partners, as well as providing Alliance partners with access to IIE-SRF resources and expertise.

In 2021, IIE-SRF supported more than 200 scholars facing threats to their lives and careers. These scholars came from 24 countries and all were experts in disciplines spanning academia. The University of Turku is a proud member of this network, and we are pleased that IIE-SRF has been actively collaborating with the Finnish National Agency for Education (EDUFI) since 2016 to provide threatened or persecuted scholars with the opportunity to continue their work in a safe environment.

In Finland, the Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF) grants are targeted to scholars from conflict regions in the early stages of their academic careers (=recent PhD graduates or scholars with limited academic experience after graduation). The scholarship periods are jointly funded by IIE-SRF and EDUFI. To learn more about the funding criteria and how to apply, please take a look here.

What support does the University of Turku provide for SAR?

The University of Turku actively supports a wide range of SAR activities. This has included being active participants in SAR Finland, in SAR Nordic, SAR Europe and SAR international. The university has hosted a range of scholars who have been forced to flee their home countries and given them the opportunity to pursue their research careers. We have received funding for SAR activities from both the Academy of Finland and the Kone Foundation. In the latter case this has included support for scholars displaced by the crisis in Ukraine.

Rector Jukka Kola describes the situation as follows:

The University of Turku is delighted to be able to support Scholars at Risk (SAR). As one of the founding members of Scholars at Risk Finland, we have chaired the organisation on two occasions and have also hosted a number of (SAR) scholars. Doing this has been part of our recognition of the vital importance of the work that SAR does in supporting academic freedom, something which is entirely in line with the University’s motto “From a free people to free science”. We look forward to continue working with SAR in future years and in helping to uphold the principles of academic freedom which are so dear to our hearts.

Furthermore, on 25 November 2021, we hosted the first national Scholars at Risk Finland (SARF Day). The event was a great success, with 45 on-site participants in Turku and another 40 online. SARF Day brought together government officials, representatives of Nordic universities and other organisations with one common goal – to review their progress and share their first-hand experience of working with scholars at risk. The event also saw the launch of the SARF Lecture Series. To learn more about the event, take a peek at this article.

How to get involved?

The Scholars at Risk network's main goal is to protect academics’ fundamental human rights by offering safe havens to scholars facing grave threats in their own home countries. The SAR network ensures that scholars' ideas are not lost and that they can keep working. By assisting threatened scholars globally, universities can benefit from internationalisation and researchers themselves can offer fresh insights to research, teaching, and guiding students.

SAR's work in Finland and other countries is critical, as there are more displaced and threatened scholars globally than ever before. If you are a scholar in need of protection, please contact the network directly. More information on how to seek help may be found here.

Advocacy work and information spreading are also vital aspects of SAR activity. This is something that everyone can do. If you are someone who wants to assist threatened scholars and contribute to the SAR mission, we would love to talk with you and explore how we can work together. Please scroll down to find our contact information and send us a message now.

More information

Please contact SARF steering group members to learn more about SAR and SARF activities at the University of Turku:

Martin Cloonan
Director of TIAS

Irinja Paakkanen
Head of International Affairs