WU Supports Scholars at Risk


WU joined the international Scholars at Risk network, offering threatened researchers the opportunity to come to WU as guest researchers.

Scholars at Risk, founded at the University of Chicago in 1999, is an international network of over 500 institutions of higher education in 39 countries whose members work to protect threatened scholars and promote academic freedom around the world. The network’s partners want to give persecuted researchers and teachers from repressive regimes the opportunity to work in freedom as guest lecturers and researchers at one of the network’s member institutions. Members also strive to raise awareness of the importance of academic freedom as a basis for democratic societies. WU joined the network in 2019. “For WU, it is a matter of course not to look away when fellow researchers in other countries and systems are being persecuted and oppressed. We plan to play an active role in the important work of Scholars at Risk, welcoming visiting researchers to WU and helping to raise awareness of the importance of free research and teaching,” explains Rector Edeltraud Hanappi-Egger.

The importance of free research and teaching

Universities are very important for society, as they generate fact-based knowledge not driven by ideologies and polemics, and they also serve an important function for and in a functioning democracy. For example, they provide independent study results or assessments of legislative changes, which can serve as a valuable basis for political decision-making. This is, however, not welcomed everywhere in the world. “We find ourselves at a critical moment in time, in a world of growing populism. In some countries, there has been, or still is, an increase in the frequency and severity of anti-academic sentiment. Precisely because of the freedom of science and research and the independent generation of knowledge, institutions of higher education can quickly become enemies of authoritarian regimes if they present inconvenient, evidence-based facts or support critical reflection. As a result, academics are often imprisoned or forced into exile. It is crucial that students and the general public are made aware of this issue, and we need to increase awareness of the importance of independent research and teaching and the implications for society when these values are threatened,” explains the rector.

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