Network Reflection: SAR Greece and the “special responsibility to support academic freedom”

Posted March 14, 2023

SAR Greece was officially launched on October 1, 2021 with four founding members: Aristotle University (AUTh), Ionian University, the University of the Aegean (UoA), and the University of Thessaly. Since its establishment SAR Greece has been growing fast; it now numbers seven members with the latest additions of the University of Crete, Panteion University, and the University of Western Macedonia. There are ongoing discussions with nine other Greek universities interested in joining SAR. Through this expansion, the  SAR Greece Section is working towards (a) raising awareness of threats to academic freedom and particular scholars and (b) developing professional opportunities for at-risk researchers both in and outside academia.

Signing of the SAR Greece Founding Statement by the four founding universities (from left to right): Prof. Nikos Nagopoulos from the University of the Aegean, AUTh’s Rector Professor Nikos Papaioannou, Rector of the Ionian University Prof. Andreas Floros and Vice-Rector of the University of Thessaly Prof. Ioannis Theodorakis.

Since its inception, SAR Greece has initiated outreach and awareness efforts on behalf of at-risk scholars and the SAR Network. In March 2022 the President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakelaropoulou, welcomed SAR Greece Chair Prof. Alexandros Triantafyllidis and Assoc. Prof. and SAR European Advisory Board member Andreas Takis to the Presidential Mansion. The same month, a SAR session dedicated to “Supporting Researchers at Risk in SE Europe” was included in the Inspireurope Regional Outreach Workshop. In July 2022, Dr. Triantafyllidis informed the Greek Rectors’ Synods about SAR, while Assoc. Prof. Andreas Takis, together with Ms. Malamati Tsapoutzoglou, presented SAR and discussed the need for support with Cypriot university rectors. Dr. Triantafyllidis and Dr. Takis have also met repeatedly with the Deputy Minister of Education, Prof. Angelos Syrigos.

Universities within the section are also spearheading their own initiatives. Ionian University offered a privately sponsored short-term scholarship for a researcher from Ukraine. Ionian University is also organizing a meeting with the rectors of all Greek HEIs during their spring 2023 Synod to update them on SAR activities and the value of hosting at-risk researchers not only from Ukraine, but also from other countries. The University of the Aegean, within the framework of a larger project on refugees, signed an MoU with UNHCR in October 2022. UoA also launched a platform for refugee support and plans to gather data with a field survey about refugees with high academic qualifications. Furthermore, UoA will organize a dedicated session on SAR Greece in spring 2023 in the framework of Action “Refugee Crisis Knowledge and Action Platform,” which is part of the Act “Aegean Archipelagos Research and Technology Network: Strengthening Regional Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Excellence.”

Updating H.E. The President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou on SAR (SAR Greece Chair Prof. Alexandros Triantafyllidis (right) and SAR European Advocacy Committee member Assist. Prof. Andreas Takis (left)).

Reflecting on more than two years of SAR Greece actions, it is clear that HEIs in Greece have become much more aware of their special responsibility to support academic freedom in a world where restrictions on basic human rights are increasing. However, much remains to be done. Toward that end, AUTh is working on an MoU with the Ministry of Migration to enhance visa pathways for at-risk researchers interested in joining Greek HEIs, while the SAR Greece steering committee is working with the Ministry of Education and the State Scholarships Foundation to develop a national initiative. Meanwhile, all SAR Greece members continue to engage in personal communications with academics and HEIs’ administration at all levels to expand the network and raise awareness at the national and European level with a special focus on the Balkans. Ionian University hosts and updates the SAR Greece webpage , while members issue regular press releases with a reference to SAR Greece on special occasions, including World Refugee Day and Inspireurope events.

Professor Alexandros Triantafyllidis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Professor Stavros Katsios, Ionian University
Professor Nikolaos Nagopoulos, University of the Aegean
Ms Malamati Tsapoutzoglou, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki


In Categories: Network Reflections