The University of Reading is in partnership with the Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara), a charity that helps scholars around the world to escape from places of conflict and danger to temporary safe environments where they can continue important academic careers.
The human cost of humanitarian crises across the world is unimaginable. However, it is not only the human cost that is devastating to countries experiencing war and conflict. When academics are killed or forced to leave their countries, they lose a vital group of leaders with developed skill sets who are at the core of delivering a quality higher education sector and training. Countries also lose the next generation of promising innovators and specialists that help a country to develop healthy economies and communities. Cara works to ensure that existing leaders are not lost in the tragedy of turmoil, and that future potential still has the opportunity to flourish.
Since partnering with Cara, Reading has welcomed scholars who have been forced to leave their country and provided them with the opportunity to continue their academic development and build networks within the academic community. It is also supporting efforts to teach English language for academic purposes (EAP) and professional skills to Syrian scholars who have fled to safety in Turkey, helping them to transition to life in English-speaking institutions across the world. You can help to protect the intellectual capacity of countries like Syria to ensure that vital skills and knowledge are preserved, so that one day their brightest people may return to help rebuild communities shattered by war and conflict.
Two scholars who contacted Cara in need of help have been placed at Reading, and are now studying for postgraduate degrees in the School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy. One of the scholars has agreed to share their story. Having seen their neighbourhood destroyed by bombs and fearing for their personal safety, they turned to Cara in December 2013 after having nowhere else to turn to.
"At the time, the situation at home was very bad and I witnessed several situations that had a direct impact on me as a person. We witnessed several mortar bombs that fell randomly over the residential areas, including the neighbourhood I lived in. Although these bombs didn't hurt us physically, they did affect the psychology of everybody living in these areas, including myself.
There was also the constant risk of random arrest and kidnapping for ransom. The fear of detention was increasing day by day, and psychologically speaking, the pressure I felt when I heard the news of yet another arrest or abduction of a friend or colleague was terrifying and overwhelming. I know many people who have disappeared for a very long time, sadly with not much hope of finding them.
In addition, it was not possible to conduct serious research at the universities. There was no electricity, and due to economic conditions, there was a lack of consumables and equipment. Moreover, the Ministry of High Education stopped its International Scholarships due to economic reasons. Therefore, Cara was my only hope to flee this horrible situation that endangered my personal safety and hindered my academic progress."
The scholar began an MSc course at Reading in 2014 and after graduating with a distinction, they were accepted for a PhD. Reading has been covering the tuition fees of the scholar's studies while Cara has provided funds to pay for their living costs. Since beginning the PhD in September 2016, the scholar has submitted two peer-reviewed articles and received a prize for the best exhibit at a departmental research day in March 2017. In discussing their plans after finishing the PhD, the scholar says:
"All of these accomplishments would not have been possible without the support of Cara and the University of Reading. I am confident that with continued support I will achieve further success during my PhD...I hope to be able to return home one day in the future as I would like to be involved in improving the damaged high education sector in my country."
In parallel to supporting at-risk scholars to come to Reading, the University is also one of 11 institutions that has partnered with Cara on its Syria Programme, which aims to preserve and then strengthen Syria's intellectual capital. Central to this is a blended-learning English for Academic Purposes (EAP) programme and a complementary professional/academic skills development workshop series that includes master classes, academic visits, one-to-one mentoring and summer schools for scholars who have escaped to safety in Turkey. At Reading, the International Study and Language Institute (ISLI) has helped to develop the programme, and with the support of donors, ISLI colleagues have contributed to leading 2 workshops in Istanbul that was attended by 35 scholars, provided a needs analysis and assessments to determine the language skills of the scholars, and are co-ordinating a group of teachers delivering the online EAP course.
Continued support will enable Reading to further develop the Cara partnership and help more at-risk scholars affected by humanitarian crises. Your donations will enable us to admit more scholars in desperate need of developing their skills and expertise to the University, and provide a safe environment for them to continue their studies and research. There are many scholars who are currently awaiting help from Reading, so the need for supporting more Cara fellowships is at a critical point.
Extra funding will also enable ISLI to continue to be a part of developing the Syria programme, and ensure that more scholars are given the support they need to transition to life in English-speaking institutions. You can help Reading to play its part in helping to preserve the intellectual capacity of war-torn countries such as Iraq and Syria, and allow their people to hope for a brighter future that isn't determined by violence and unrest.
Thank you for your support
Reading is currently supporting 2 Cara Fellows with their postgraduate studies.
Reading's International Study and Language Institute (ISLI)is a key partner on Cara's Syria Programme.
ISLI has led 2 professional skills workshops in Istanbul.
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First Vice-Chancellor, 1926-29