Mission and History

Around the world today, members of higher education communities are attacked because of their words, their ideas and their place in society. Those seeking power and control work to limit access to information and new ideas by targeting scholars, restricting academic freedom, and repressing research, publication, teaching and learning. Scholars at Risk (SAR) and its network of higher education institutions and individuals are committed to protecting threatened scholars, preventing attacks on higher education, and promoting academic freedom and related values.

Institutions and individuals who share in these values are invited to join the Network and get involved in SAR’s opportunities for engagement including hosting threatened scholars, advocating for imprisoned academics, monitoring attacks on higher education and joining working groups, among others.

To read SAR’s Bylaws, click here.



Scholars at Risk began in the Human Rights Program of the University of Chicago in 1999. The Network launched with a major international conference at the university in June 2000. Since then, scores of universities have joined the Network and helped to defend hundreds of scholars around the world.

In 2001, Scholars at Risk joined with other international education and human rights organizations to launch the Network for Education and Academic Rights (NEAR). NEAR was a clearing house of information on academic freedom and education rights and coordinator of joint action on reports of academic rights violations.

In 2002, SAR partnered with the Institute of International Education which was then establishing IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund. The Fund provides vital financial support to scholars facing grave threats so that they may escape dangerous conditions and continue their academic work in safety. In establishing an endowed rescue fund, IIE formalized 85 years of commitment to helping intellectuals and seeks to ensure that resources will always be there when scholars are most vulnerable and in urgent need. Scholars at Risk is delighted to partner with IIE in helping many scholars, and since the Fund’s founding many SAR members universities have hosted scholars supported in part by fellowships from the IIE Scholar Rescue Fund.

In 2003, the network headquarters relocated from the University of Chicago to the Greenwich Village campus of New York University, where it now resides within the Provost’s Office. Since moving to NYU, SAR has developed strong relationships with higher education networks including the Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA) and UAF. Around the world, a growing number of SAR members have launched country and regional “Sections,” expanding SAR’s goal of building a truly global constituency pledged to promote academic freedom and defend threatened higher education communities everywhere. To see if your institution is a SAR member, visit our membership directory.