CARA: A Lifeline to Academics at Risk Since 1933

In countries and states of conflict, war, and crisis, education becomes increasingly politicised and those delivering it are put at risk by both the regime and extremists. CARA (Council for At-Risk Academics) works to protect academics in such situations, with the aim of “the relief of suffering and the defence of learning and science”.

From ethnic, sexual, or religious discrimination to the increased politicisation of academic works, academic freedom is quickly jeopardised in countries of crisis and conflict. In 1933, the Nazis expelled many academics from their positions in German universities on racial grounds, and not necessarily anti-Semitic ones. British economist and social reformer, William Beveridge, seeing this injustice, rallied British academics and universities to help by housing and recruiting expelled academics in an effort to “prevent the waste of exceptional abilities exceptionally trained”. Since then, CARA has elicited the help and support of many renowned academics, from to A. V. Hill to Ernest Rutherford, who became the first President of the organisation. Beveridge famously wrote in his A Defence of Free Learning (1959) “although Hitler was dead, intolerance was not”, and with that, CARA’s rescue mission continues today.

Since then, CARA have evolved and adapted to provide council and safety to academics in “some of the world’s most dangerous places” today; and the work they do is only gaining relevance in the instability of our current geopolitical situation. From the South African apartheid between 1948 and 1994, to the Stalinist regimes of the USSR and Eastern Europe, CARA have helped academics all over the globe. The continuing crises in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq, have led to an upsurge in the number of academics seeking CARA’s help.
Many academics working in foreign universities, thanks to CARA’s support, hope to return one day, when their home countries become safe again. In the meantime, CARA can help them to build a new life, using their knowledge to enlighten new students and prevent future political injustice.

For example, CARA fellow Ali Taghizadegan completed in a BSc in Computer Science and proceeded to take a job in telecommunications in Iran. He also worked as an assistant lecturer and taught computer courses. However, Ali was confronted with a serious problem at his company, which forced him to flee from Iran. He had to leave everything behind.

He came to the UK in 2008 and applied for asylum. Ali obtained a scholarship from CARA, meaning he was able to fully concentrate on his studies and graduate with a distinction in Masters study of Operations and Supply Chain Management. Ali said “CARA did a great job for me, taking away any reason for stress so that I was able to carry on my studying with peace of mind”.

The support he received encouraged Ali to study for a PhD. Ali’s Masters dissertation was recognised as one of the three best projects in the North West in 2015 by CILT (Charted institute of Logistics and Transport), and he received an award. Ali says he will always be grateful for the generous support from CARA.

Protecting these academics, the countries they are from, and the knowledge they hold is vital to the future of education in those countries and in the world more generally. In countries, where academics are attacked, tortured and kidnapped, fear dominates and academic freedom is revoked. CARA explain: “Where people cannot speak, write, teach and meet, freely and without fear, education is compromised, truth is denied and lies become established. Where higher education is destroyed, there will soon be no teachers, no doctors, no architects, no lawyers. Young people will learn no skills. With no futures, some may turn to extremism. That country will suffer for generations. And the whole world will suffer with it”.

Acknowledging the suffering and victimisation academics can experience in times of war can guard against injustices similar to those faced by academics in Nazi Germany in the future. The education of the younger generations is necessary to enlighten people to differences and ultimately free us from the shackles of oppression.

This article was also published on the MMU website here.

This event was part of Humanities in Public’s WAR strand.

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