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Centre of Governance & Human Rights (CGHR)


11th February 2011

Human Rights and Academic Freedom

A seminar, co-hosted by the Centre of Governance and Human Rights (POLIS), CARA and CRASSH, that brings together a broad range of speakers to explore the issues surrounding human rights and academic freedom from a variety of perspectives.

In the midst of a tumultuous time for our own university system, CGHR, CRASSH and CARA host a seminar that seeks to remind us of the greater challenges faced by those living elsewhere. Whilst funding cuts in the UK may wreak havoc on our work, elsewhere colleagues at the sharp end of violations of academic freedom suffer persecution, intimidation, mental abuse and even physical abuse and death. Curbs on academic freedom affect all scholars, and this seminar hopes to build an awareness of the difficulties faced by academics around the world, the effect this has on the pursuit of knowledge, and of the positive steps the international academic community can take to support colleagues in need.

For over 75 years, the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA) has assisted refugee academics in the UK to adjust to life in the UK and pursue their work in a supportive academic environment. The University of Cambridge has been involved with CARA from its very first days. Many refugees, helped by CARA, settled in Cambridge and their work has helped change the world around us. The scientists Max Born, Hans Krebs and Max Perutz were some of the early academics to arrive at Cambridge and all were awarded Nobel Prizes for their research. More recently, the Cambridge Colleges Hospitality Scheme has welcomed Iraqi Visiting Scholars each year - highlighting their bravery in the face of death threats and their determination to go back and rebuild their country. Both CRASSH and CGHR are actively involved with trying to support scholars at risk in the University today, with the help of CARA and concerned colleges.

Cambridge's notable tradition of assisting refugee academics and scholars at risk is a matter of pride but must serve as a foundation for continued and expanded efforts. This seminar seeks to renew and redouble efforts within the University to support refugee academics and scholars at risk today and in the future. By bringing together a broad range of speakers - encompassing refugee academics, an MP and a British scholar whose research focuses on academic freedom - this seminar will explore the issues surrounding human rights and academic freedom from a variety of perspectives.

CARA has assisted refugee academics in the UK for over 75 years, and Cambridge has been involved with CARA from the outset through the efforts of the likes of Lord Rutherford, John Maynard Keynes, Professor AV Hill and Sir William Bragg. Many refugees, helped by CARA, settled in Cambridge, such as Nobel Prize winning scientists Max Born, Hans Krebs and Max Perutz.

About the speakers

Chair: Mr Julian Huppert

The Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge City since 2010, and is the chair of the All-Party Group for refugees. As a Fellow of Clare College, he also has experience of the issues surrounding human rights and academic freedom within a university setting, as well as expertise in the government’s response to asylum seekers.

Mr Admore Tshuma

Worked as a journalist and as a lecturer in journalism at Bulawayo Commercial College. As a journalist he wrote articles on farm invasions and highlighted the abuses of the Mugabe regime. One day his class was disrupted by two men from the intelligence agency, and soon after he received threatening phone calls. The College came under pressure from government authorities to dismiss him and the principal was called and threatened that if he continued to employ Admore the college would be closed down and he would be sacked. After being sacked, Admore was told that if he didn't leave the country he would be 'eliminated'. The students that he taught at the College have been black-listed by the government and most now work abroad. He came to the UK in 2006, and still continues to write and publish articles criticising the regime. These can be found on his website, Admore received funding from CARA to continue his PhD at the University of Bristol.

Mrs Latefa Guemar

Was a successful academic in Algeria working as a researcher and lecturer at the Research Centre for Technology of Welding and Non-Destructive Testing in Algeria. Sadly, her husband’s life was put at risk and he was forced to flee to the UK because of his journalistic work. Latefa and her daughter soon joined him, and CARA funded Latefa's IELTS exam and an MSc in August 2008, including the cost of childcare. Through her MSc Latefa became closely involved with the Centre for Migration Policy Research (CMPR) at Swansea University, and is now undertaking a PhD researching female academic refugees in the UK and their connection to their home country.

Dr Terence Karran

A Senior Academic in the Centre for Educational Research and Development, at the University of Lincoln. From 2005 - 2007, he was a Visiting Professor in Educational Technology at the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajarain Mexico, where he was the Director of UAG's Distance Learning Centre and of the Mexican National Co-ordination Centre for the World Bank Institute's Global Development Learning Network for Latin America and the Caribbean. His current research interests are centred on the history and development of the concept of academic freedom and its protection within Europe, the USA and Latin America. He has recently published articles on the level of protection for academic freedom in Europe, compliance with the UNESCO 1997 Recommendation on the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel in the EU states, the possibilities of a Magna Charta for academic freedom, and the overall theoretical and practical justification for the concept.

For details of last year's Human Rights and Academic Freedom event, including the event report and video, click here.