Sup­port for At-risk schol­ars

In 2023, Humboldt-Universität has launched the Berlin Brandenburg Academic Freedom Week. Photo: Philipp Plum

In recognition of its historical responsibility, Humboldt-Universität supports scholars at risk. Learn here how our initiatives and networks promote academic freedom.

In its more than 200-year existence, Humboldt has worked under and with non-democratic regimes, navigating periods when scholarship and scientific exploration couldn’t flourish freely. Recognising our historical responsibility, we are deeply committed to academic freedom and strive for a scholarship free of reprisals. Thus, we contribute to several initiatives and networks designed to safeguard scholars and research from persecution.

More than 60 At-risk scholars accommodated since 2016

At Humboldt, we want to create safer spaces for persecuted scholars to research and work freely. To this end, we team up with foundations supporting persecuted scholars for short- and mid-term stays. As part of the Philipp Schwartz Initiative by the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung, we welcome at-risk scholars for a 24-month stay at Humboldt to research and build new networks. In collaboration with the Einstein Foundation, we received eleven advanced and junior researchers. Together, we have hosted over 60 scholars, mainly from Syria, Turkey, Yemen, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and Brazil.

Global threats to academic freedom call for strong networks to defend and protect academics and their work. Since 2016, Humboldt has been a sustaining member of the Scholars at Risk network, participating in its advocacy campaigns for academic freedom and joining its protection work by hosting at-risk and displaced academics. Our commitment to the network deepened in 2023 when we joined the German steering committee, overseeing the network’s German chapter for the next five years.

Together with partners from Berlin and Brandenburg, Humboldt launched a regional Scholars at Risk chapter in 2023. In regular meetings, we work towards capacity building and knowledge exchange to better support persecuted scholars in a specific Berlin-Brandenburg context. The regional chapter works to convince more higher education institutions to commit to a Scholars at Risk programme, create a sustainable exchange platform for members, offer more support for at-risk scholars, and positions the Berlin and Brandenburg region as a hub for academic freedom.

Championing academic freedom involves not only providing space for persecuted academics but also taking a public stand for our values. In 2023, we initiated the Berlin Brandenburg Academic Freedom Week, which included panel discussions, regional working groups, and events to address academic freedom together with the public. Through our social media presence, we position ourselves when we perceive threats to academic freedom on an individual and systemic level.