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Cara’s Fellowship Programme

Cara is ready to help academics from any country in the world, on any continent, who are being forced to flee by the risk of imminent imprisonment, injury or death, and works with them to find them temporary refuge in universities and research institutions until they can one day return home to help re-build better, safer societies.

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at the Kharkiv National University building, which city officials said was damaged by recent shelling, in Kharkiv, Ukraine March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Oleksandr Lapshyn - RC29US9B4Q8N

Cara helps academics at immediate risk around the world to escape to a place of safety where they can continue their work. In 1933, Cara’s founders described their mission as ‘the relief of suffering and the defence of learning and science‘. Ninety years later, that mission continues; and in that time Cara has saved thousands of highly-qualified people, who have gone on to use their skills for the good of all.

Cara’s Fellowship Programme has been developed in close partnership with a Network of 135 UK universities and research institutes, who provide financial support for Cara and fee waivers and other support for Cara beneficiaries. Fellowships help academics in danger to escape to a safe place where they can continue their work. Most intend to return home when they can; but they need support in the meantime to maintain and develop the skills and to build the networks that they will need when that day comes. Some early-career Cara Fellows need to get postgraduate qualifications such as a PhD to continue their career; others already hold doctorates and are looking for a postdoctoral placement to carry out research, possibly with the goal of moving later into a full-time teaching or research post. Cara checks their background, qualifications and references; encourages them to identify potential supervisors/host institutions, most often in the UK but sometimes elsewhere; helps to negotiate the placement; allocates any additional funding needed from its own resources; and helps with the visa process and other practical arrangements, for them and any family members accompanying them.  

In 2022-23 our work has again been dominated by events in Afghanistan and Ukraine. The Taliban’s rule is becoming more and more repressive, particularly for women, who have been banned from universities since last December. Here in Europe, Russia’s brutal attacks on Ukraine have continued, with further direct strikes on universities. Alongside these, however, crises in other countries such as Syria and Myanmar have continued to bring academics to our doors, needing urgent help to get to safety; and from April this year the conflict in Sudan has added another group of desperate people who need our help.  So it is no surprise that, over the last twelve months or so, the number of ‘Active Fellows’ – those actually in placements, mostly in the UK, hosted by members of our University and Research Network – has gone up from 105 to 170. In addition, at any given time our ‘New Fellows’ team are now sifting and assessing up to 90 new applications and working with another 80 or so Fellows at the next stage, agreeing the details of their placements – a complex and time-consuming task, followed by the whole process of actually bringing them, and in many cases their families as well, safely to the UK. 

In the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Cara also helped to develop and launch the British Academy-led ‘Researchers at Risk’ programme, which has since awarded 180 Fellowships to Ukraine-based researchers across the physical and biological sciences, medical sciences, engineering, humanities, social sciences and the arts.  That programme has now closed, but we are hoping that a successor programme will be considered. 

Cara is the leading organisation of its type based in Europe, and unique in its focus on helping those who are still in immediate danger, rather than already in exile, and in providing 2- or 3-year awards as standard. Experience shows that Cara Fellows who manage to return home feel much better connected and are empowered to act as agents of change, sharing their newly-gained knowledge, concepts, materials and approaches with students and colleagues. Returning Fellows are also well-placed to play a key link role in the future between their colleagues and international counterparts, at both an individual and institutional level. Collaborations between host and home institutions can include joint supervisions and PhD visiting programmes, and access to specialist equipment unavailable in their own labs.

“The mission of Universities is the promotion of critical thought, both in our research and in our teaching. We don’t tell people what to think, we seek to show people how to think. As a consequence, the repression of academics is often amongst the first moves of those groups and regimes that seek to impose conformity and exclude criticism. In many parts of the world today, academics are under attack for doing their jobs, for what they have said, for who they are or simply because of where they are. In defending these colleagues at risk, then, we are defending the very idea of a University”.

Professor Stephen Reicher, St Andrews University – Grandson of a Cara Fellow from 1934