News and Events

Official Press Release: Scholar Rescue in the Modern World

Sharon Witherell/IIE Public Affairs
Deboroah Gardner/Halstead Communications



“Scholar Rescue in the Modern World” Defines Academic Oppression Index

Note to editors: interviews with authors and an electronic copy of the report are available upon request; a UN webcast of the briefing is available on

NEW YORK, April 16, 2009 – A new report issued this week by the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund indicates that intimidation, repression and fear have threatened to silence surprisingly high numbers of the world’s academics and forced many others to flee their homelands in search of a safe space to pursue their work.  The report, Scholar Rescue in the Modern World, shows that threats to scholars are chronic and widespread, based on data from applications to the Fund from scholars in more than 100 countries who have contacted the Fund during its first five years of making fellowship grants, from 2002 through 2007.

Dr. Henry G. Jarecki, Chairman of the Scholar Rescue Fund and Vice Chairman of IIE’s Board of Trustees, presented the findings at a Forum at the United Nations on April 14, hosted by the United Nations University (UNU) and the Institute of International Education. 

“Professors should not be physically threatened, jailed, tortured, or killed,” said Dr. Jarecki. “The goal of this persecution is to silence the voices of scholars and their intimidated colleagues and students. How can we as people and as a world survive if our learning is cut off? It is the hope of the Scholar Rescue Fund that the analysis and recommendations we offer in the report will help to combat this evil.”

Scholar Rescue in the Modern World, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and co-authored by Dr. Jarecki and Daniela Zane Kaisth, is an effort to share with a larger community the breadth and nature of the persecution of scholars around the globe.

Speaking at the UN Forum, Carnegie Corporation president Dr. Vartan Gregorian said, “Institutions such as universities that are the centers of learning and knowledge, along with the scholars and teachers who are their heart and soul, are critical to the advancement of all humankind.” Citing the Corporation’s longtime support for IIE and international education in the belief that scholarship has no borders and no boundaries, he noted, “The freedom to learn, the freedom of thought, the freedom of assembly, and the freedom of speech must be sacrosanct, even under the most difficult conditions.”

Scholar Rescue in the Modern World shows that academic oppression is surprisingly widespread, with applications to the Scholar Rescue Fund originating from 101 countries over a five year period.  When the top applicant countries are analyzed in terms of country and academic population, however, it becomes clear that some countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Iran, are hot spots of scholar persecution.  Female scholars are more persecuted than male scholars and governments are the main source of scholar persecution, outnumbering non-state actors, such as militias and terrorist groups, by a factor of roughly three to one. 

While scholars are often persecuted for specific reasons, such as writing and researching about a sensitive topic, some scholars also face persecution due to general anti-intellectualism in their countries.  It is important to note that scholars seek help on a case-by-case basis and may be victims of persecution for any variety of reasons relating to their particular circumstances and fields.

The Scholar Rescue Fund data, which is based upon 847 SRF applications and 140 grants from 2002 through 2007, is correlated with a variety of economic and political factors in an attempt to answer the following question: “What do countries that oppress scholars have in common?”  The report identifies a number of factors present when the number of scholars applying is a high proportion of the country’s academic population (what the authors call the “Academic Oppression Index”). The top five factors are: low GDP; high level of conflict; low academic population; low academic population per million of country population; and Failed State status. A sortable chart of SRF and country data used in the analysis can be accessed online.   

The report proposes a number of new ideas and programs to mitigate the persecution of academics worldwide.  These include, for example, publishing an annual index of academic oppression, developing a UN convention against the persecution of scholars, decreasing barriers for academics to cross borders, establishing centers of excellence and refuge for persecuted scholars, and developing scenarios that might predict the next big academic crisis. The report also highlights case studies of several scholars who have been helped by the Fund.

The Scholar Rescue Fund is a program within the Institute of International Education that provides support and safe haven to threatened scholars. Scholars in any field and from any country may apply for one-year fellowships (renewable up to one additional year) to continue productive academic work at safe host institutions anywhere in the world. 
The Institute of International Education (IIE) is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. An independent, nonprofit organization founded in 1919, IIE has 20 offices worldwide, and over 1,000 college and university IIENetwork members. IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government agencies, foundations, corporations and private individuals. IIE also conducts policy research, and provides advising and counseling on international education and opportunities abroad.
To read the remarks by Vartan Gregorian from the launch event please click here