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Academic Freedom - Funding for Persecuted and At-Risk Academics

Academics in a growing number of countries are currently suffering restrictions in their academic freedom or are subject to reprisals and persecution due to their scientific work. Along with the general population in their countries of origin, they are further exposed to events forcing them to seek refuge, such as civil war and political, ethnic, and religious repression as well as repression based upon their views and opinions. Funding organizations and third-party funding organizations have responded to this situation and have for some time now been offering special funding programs to support refugee and at-risk academics.

The Research Promotion Section has produced this website to provide members of TU Berlin with an overview of funding options allowing outstanding and highly qualified academics who are threatened with persecution and who have been, or are being forced to flee their countries of origin, to participate in research projects or to take up work at TU Berlin via other means of financing.

TU Berlin is member of "Scholars at Risk"

The TU Berlin is a member of the network "Scholars at Risk" (SAR). The network offers temporary research and teaching opportunities to scholars whose lives, freedom, and well-being are threatened at institutions that belong to the Scholars at Risk (SAR) network, as well as counseling and other placement services. The network consists of more than 500 educational institutions in 41 different countries.

TU Berlin faculty, staff, and students have the opportunity to participate in SAR activities and take advantage of the services offered by the network. These include inviting SAR scholars to share their stories on campus through the SAR Speaker Series, hosting student advocacy seminars, and participating in action campaigns. It also includes researching attacks on higher education through the Academic Freedom Monitoring Project and participating in various SAR workshops and working groups.

Further information: www.scholarsatrisk.org

Einstein Foundation

“Einstein Guest Researchers” and “Einstein Junior Scholarships” programs for fostering academic freedom
The two temporary special programs  “Einstein Guest Researchers“ and “Einstein Junior Scholarships“ offer at-risk acadmics, and researchers the world over restricted in their academic freedom the chance to conduct research work in Berlin for a period of up to two years. The programs are intended primarily to fund outstanding academics from war zones as well as researchers from regions where subtle and direct restrictions in research apply and who are looking to return to, emigrate to, or participate in cooperative projects with countries where they are not exposed to restrictions of this kind. The programs also strengthen Berlin’s image as a tolerant, cosmopolitan city where researchers can freely pursue their scientific work. The programs are open to the Berlin universities and applications can be submitted at any time.
Applications at TU Berlin are to be submitted via the Research Promotion Section (VC 3).
Further information about the “Academic Freedom” program can be found at:

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

Application for Walter Benjamin positions
Refugee researchers can submit a proposal for their own project to be carried out in Germany under the Walter Benjamin Programme (Walter Benjamin post). The restriction of the target group to the early postdoc phase that otherwise exists under this programme does not apply to refugees. Funding for up to two years under this programme offers the opportunity to acquire qualifications for independent project supervision: this is a requirement for taking the next steps towards further establishment in the academic system. At the same time, applicants benefit from career support measures by the host institution, since these measures form part of the Walter Benjamin Programme funding concept.
Further information about the Walter Benjamin Programme:
Supplemental proposals / integration in current funding programmes
All project leaders and also higher education institutions can submit supplemental proposals to integrate qualified refugees – prospective or doctoral researchers – in DFG projects that already receive funding. These proposals can be justified based on the fact that individuals are now available for the further development of a project whose involvement can be expected to provide additional stimuli for the research programme in question.
A supplemental proposal can be geared towards any type of funding that enables refugees to be integrated in a project, in particular guest funds, staff positions and the Mercator module. Proposals may be submitted informally at any time and should not exceed five pages (not including CV and bibliography). However, applicants should take care to ensure that the proposal is sufficiently informative to ensure a swift review based on the DFG’s familiar quality criteria. In this connection, proposals must include information on the individuals to be incorporated in a project and justify the added value provided by their involvement.
Refugee researchers can also be funded directly as part of Research Training Groups, Collaborative Research Centres and other DFG-funded joint projects. The funds for this do not have to be applied for separately via supplemental proposals because this type of measure can be financed from funds that have already been approved. For example, refugees who hold a bachelor’s degree or comparable qualification can receive a qualification fellowship so as to pursue a doctorate as part of a Research Training Group at a later stage or else join the RTG directly.
Further information about measures for Refugee Researchers and DFG funding:

Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Philipp Schwartz Initiative
The Philipp Schwartz Initiative provides universities and research institutions in Germany with the means to host at-risk foreign researchers for a period of 24 months on a fully funded research fellowship. An extension is possible under a co-financing model. The Initiative is funded by the Federal Foreign Office, the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen and Halbach Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, the Gerda Henkel Foundation, the Klaus Tschira Foundation, the Robert Bosch Foundation, the Stifterverband, and the Stiftung Mercator. Research institutes in Germany, including public universities, are eligible to apply. Institutes whose applications are successful will be able to award a Philipp Schwartz Fellowship to at-risk researchers. Please see the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation website for information concerning application dates.
To obtain information and submit an application, please contact Baris Ünal (Section I E, Tel. 25654), advisor on issues relating to refugees at TU Berlin.

Further information about the Philipp Schwartz Initiative can be found at:

Starting this autumn, a new fellowship programme will help researchers from Ukraine who are at risk or have fled their country continue their work in an EU Member State or Horizon Europe Associated Country.
MSCA4Ukraine, as the programme is called, is one of the European Union’s responses to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Through this programme, Ukrainian researchers are to be put in a position to continue working on their doctorate or as a postdoc at a European host institution. A permanent brain drain is to be avoided. For this reason, these individuals’ reintegration in Ukraine is to be fostered as soon as it is again possible and collaboration between the Ukrainian university sector and the international research community is to be strengthened.

German Federal Environmental Foundation

CEE special fellowship programme for Ukraine
The German Federal Environmental Foundation has launched a special fellowship programme to support university graduates from Ukraine to work on topics related to environmental protection and nature conservation. The programme is aimed at graduates living in or have fled Ukraine with a good or very good Master's degree as well as current PhD students. Good English and/or German language skills are a prerequisite for application. The fellowship enables a six to twelve-month research and training stay in German research institutions, environmental authorities, NGOs or companies to gain experience in various fields of environmental protection and nature conservation. During the fellowship, the DBU offers an extensive programme consisting of seminars, events and workshops. The grant also includes at least one intensive German course.
Applications are possible until further notice.

Further information about the German Federal Environmental Foundation can be found at:

Institute of International Education

Scholar Rescue Fund
The Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF) run by the Institute of International Education (IIE), is one of the biggest international fellowship awarding programs. The IIE-SRF Fellowships are intended for professors, researchers and intellectuals with a public profile whose lives or careers are at-risk in their countries of origin. The one-year partial fellowships are awarded for stays at universities and research institutes providing a firm offer of work. Fellowships can be extended for one year. The SRF also helps researchers and research institutes establish contact with one another.
Further information concerning the IIE and the SRF can be found at:  

Further Funding Options

Further Funding Options

In addition to the programs offered by these funding organizations, other programs not specifically dedicated to this purpose, particularly those offered by the DAAD, could also be made available to fund refugee academics. Applications for funding are to be submitted under the standard conditions of the respective funding organizations and in competition with all other applicants, with or without refugee or at-risk status. As for the dedicated programs for refugee scientists, funding is only awarded here to outstanding researchers.
Information concerning further funding options for refugees as well as DAAD programs for stays in Germany can be found at:

The Bigger Picture

Academy in Exile (Essen, Berlin)
The Academy in Exile was jointly established by the Institute of Tourism at the University of Duisburg-Essen, the KWI in Essen and the Forum Transregionale Studien Berlin. The initiative is funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and has been initially established in Berlin and Essen. The initiative is intended to create the opportunity to establish an academic program of critical Turkish studies and a forum to reflect on academic freedom and science in exile. In addition, 10 fellowships are awarded annually to at-risk researchers and researchers living in exile.


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