close search button

22 May 1933 - The day that Cara's mission began

May 21 2023

90 years ago, on 22 May 1933, 41 of the leading academics, scientists and public figures of the UK came together to launch the Founding Statement of the Academic Assistance Council, to raise funds to assist their colleagues in Germany who were being forced out of their posts by the Nazis, on racial grounds.

Between 1933 and 1939, the AAC, later known as the SPSL and now as Cara, raised £100,000 from donors and universities, the equivalent of some £4 million today, and used it to support individuals and their families with grants and advice while they found new posts in universities in the UK or in other safe countries.  A number of the AAC’s founders and Council members also personally provided places and/or funds to help individual academics.   Cara’s 41 founders, led by Sir William Beveridge, then the Director of the LSE, defined their mission as ‘the relief of suffering and the defence of learning and science’.  Their focus was on Europe, but even then they stressed that support should in principle be available to threatened academics 'from whatever country'.  In all, some 1,500-2,000 academics from Germany and other countries that succumbed to fascism were helped in this period.  Sixteen later won Nobel Prizes; eighteen were knighted; over one hundred became Fellows of the Royal Society or the British Academy.  Their contribution to British scientific, intellectual and cultural life was enormous.

90 years on, we work with academics from all around the world, wherever academic freedom, and the people who believe in it and defend it, are at risk.  The last two years have, very sadly, seen a surge in the number of applications from those seeking our help, from 160 in 2020/21 to 1,105 in 2022, primarily as a result of the Taliban's takeover in Afghanistan and Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine, although applications from many other countries continue to arrive (see our Annual Report 2021/22).  Fortunately, this surge has been matched by a significant increase in the level of support we have been offered by our university and research institute partners, many of whom have provided additional funded places, and by the generosity of existing and new donors.  As a result, we were able to help over 200 active 'Cara Fellows' in 2022, and 30 more new Fellows have so far arrived in 2023 with more on their way.  Meanwhile, our regional programmes also continue their life-changing work.  Our Syria Programme, which was launched in 2016 to help Syrian academics forced into exile, mostly in Turkey, is now working with over 200 Programme participants.  While a crisis may go out of the headlines, the need for support often goes on.  And with the situation in Sudan apparently worsening by the day, with very large numbers now on the move, the next crisis is already looming.

And so, on our 90th birthday, we rededicate ourselves to the task our Founders set for us - 'the relief of suffering and the defence of learning and science’.

If you are able to contribute to support our work, the link to donate is here.