Cara and You | AUA Blog

Anne Lonsdale
CARA Chair and Honorary AUA Member

Chances are, you might have already encountered a Cara Fellow on your professional path in HE. Designed in response to political turmoil and warfare, Cara (Council for At-Risk Academics) is an organisation that helps academics that have been unwillingly exiled from their own countries find host universities in other, safer nations.

Started by William Beveridge (then director of the London School of Economics) in 1933, when Hitler closed off Nazi universities to Jewish academics, this organisation helped save hundreds of scholars that faced destitution or worse. Among the many intellectuals who came to Britain, 16 were to win Nobel Prizes. Among them was revered Austrian-British philosopher and professor, Karl Popper, who went to write The Open Society and its Enemies, and Ludwig Guttman, German-born British neurologist that opened the Stoke Manderville Hospital and pioneered the Paralympic Games.

117 British higher education institutions are members of the Cara Network, and many more have welcomed Cara Fellows since the organisation was founded in 1933.  A Cara Fellow is an academic who has fled their own country due to immediate threat to their life and family, unable to work in their institution any longer. Cara matches these exiles with host universities who offer a place in a lab or department, access to libraries and email.

Many academics fleeing war have told us that simple things, like having access to a library and internet, made them feel normal and human again.

Unfortunately, there is still need for Cara today, as fellows will reach your University fleeing dire circumstances. The first hurdle is the visa: Cara offers help and advice, with a high success rate in obtaining temporary Tier 5 Working Visas. Our Fellows only rarely seek asylum, as most are very grateful for our support but really hope and intend to go home as soon as it is safe. This charity organisation also offers exiled academics a path forward, to other placements, until it is safe for them to go back home.



Some Syrian academics have already begun to explore their ruined homes, but it is too early yet.

As under Hitler’s oppression in the 30’s, academics nowadays appeal to us because their lives are in immediate danger, and they and their families urgently need sanctuary. They also want to get back to work, teaching and research, to build links with British colleagues and become better qualified and equipped to rebuild their war torn countries on their return.

We work with University partners, primarily to provide Fellowships, saving lives and expertise here in UK. We have also run projects abroad. The first in this series is a Virtual Portal for Zimbabwean exiles to continue teaching their students in Harare. Between 2006 and 2012, the Cara Iraq Research Fellowship Programme, funded by the Open Society Foundation, began projects led by UK PI’s on the ground in Iraq just after hostilities, researching topics such as TB, PTSD in children, and the spread of depleted uranium.

Due to it’s previous success, we are now we are repeating this programme for Syrian academics, wonderfully supported by UK universities which have created additional schemes where joint British university teams give training in EAP, Academic and Research Skills for Syrian academics in exile in Turkey or Jordan, both face-to-face and online. We hope this piece of Action Research will lead to plans which can be developed to roll out whenever and wherever the next challenge erupts.

If you find yourself or your university engaged in any part of this, you are part of a long, proud tradition, saving lives and rebuilding societies, making an abstract idea like ‘Academic Freedom’ a daily reality for more people worldwide.

Cara thanks you so much for your help.

To find out more, volunteer or work with Cara, please visit their website:


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