PRESS RELEASE – ‘The Scholars of Ukraine’ to Receive Scholars at Risk 2024 Courage to Think Award

Posted June 10, 2024

NEW YORK, June 10, 2024 – Scholars at Risk (SAR) announced today that the ‘scholars of Ukraine’ are the recipient of the 2024 Courage to Think Award, recognizing their courage, resilience, and unwavering commitment to their teaching, research, students, and higher education institutions, despite the existential threat posed by war.

The award will be presented at the SAR Global Congress on Wednesday, June 26th at the European Humanities University (EHU) in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The Courage to Think Award is given by SAR to individuals, groups, or institutions that have demonstrated an exemplary commitment to protecting scholars and promoting academic freedom, whether through their professional work, private or community service, often in the face of personal risk.

In announcing the award, Robert Quinn, SAR Executive Director, noted “The courage and dedication of the scholars of Ukraine is both exceptional and inspiring: Exceptional in withstanding such a prolonged and violent assault, including repeated bombardments, occupations, and displacements on a mass scale. Inspiring in their demonstrated solidarity and creativity in supporting each other, their students, and their institutions. They put their careers, and at times their lives, on the line because they know that the future of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people depend in good part on research and teaching that supports rebuilding, inspires and empowers young Ukrainians, and defends Ukrainian nationality and culture against the current attempt to eradicate them.”

The award will be received by a representative of Mariupol State University (MSU), symbolically representing all of the scholars of Ukraine, inside and outside of the country, who are working to maintain Ukraine’s higher education teaching and research sector. MSU has been operating from Kyiv since the destruction and fall of the city of Mariupol in February 2022, after having been displaced previously by the first Russian invasion in 2014.

According to Ukrainian government data, at least 59 universities have been damaged and nine completely destroyed in Ukraine as a result of Russia’s shelling of civilian infrastructure in 2022-2024. Yet scholarly responsibilities have increased after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, with the scholars of Ukraine playing a crucial role in shaping public engagement and discourse in the country and abroad. Researchers have advocated for remote fellowships for Ukrainian scholars unable to find safe refuge abroad, collected data about damage to research infrastructure, and connected fellow scholars with assistance programs. Other activities include publishing special issues about Russia’s war on Ukraine in internationally renowned academic journals, fostering public engagement efforts through webinars and podcasts, attending conferences in Europe and North America, and advocating for universities to support Ukrainian students and scholars.

In addition to the award, the Global Congress will feature a plenary panel on ‘Lessons from Ukraine’, examining the experience of defenders of academic freedom and higher education communities in or from Ukraine, focusing both on projects and individuals still operating from inside Ukraine and those displaced from or otherwise operating outside of Ukraine. Among the projects featured are:

  • Science at Risk,
  • Virtual Ukrainian Institute for Advanced Study (VUIAS),
  • the Invisible University for Ukraine, and
  • Ukrainian Science Diaspora

The overall Global Congress theme, “Sustainable knowledge: Lessons from universities, scholars, and students in exile,” will explore the experience of academic communities confronted with exile due to political turmoil, repression, disasters, and conflicts. From Belarus to Myanmar, Afghanistan to Ukraine, Turkey to Sudan, Nicaragua to Israel/Palestine, and beyond, the Congress program will use exhibitions, a film screening, plenaries, and panel discussions to explore effective means of supporting at-risk scholars and students in securing safety, reclaiming their academic roles, and contributing to resilient higher education communities and societies.


Registration and program information for in-person participation is available on the SAR website.

Some sessions will be live broadcast via Zoom. Registration and program information for remote participation is also available on the SAR website.


Please direct media inquiries, requests for press attendance at the conference, or requests for comment to