A brief word on academic mobility


My apologies dear Reader. This post is later than expected. I am drowning under boxes of stuff, all part of moving countries – again.

i shouldn’t moan. Academic mobility is a privilege. You get to see another institution, another country, another culture. You see how the agenda you have been working on stays the same but also changes in a new location. You see new problems. There are different funding and publishing opportunities. You  meet new people and make new connections. These in turn open up new collaborations. This is all exciting and generally rewarding and makes the crap parts of the moving experience worthwhile.

Academic mobility is also a challenge, particularly when it involves moving countries. Visas are just one of the very many problems you have to deal with. Moving countries means re-establishing every part of your life – from mobile phones, bank accounts and  credit cards and drivers’ licences to getting access to the health system, taxation system and whatever voting privileges you are able to have. Moving institutions also means a whole gamut of New Things, from how to access technical support and the library, to how to get your salary paid. And I’ve learnt – from leaving home, working somewhere else and then coming back – is that some institutions are better than others at supporting you in your move, but most of the national systems are hard to manage, if not in the same ways.

Now of course I am writing as someone in a very privileged position. I have all of my paperwork and possessions. And I have an income. I  know people where I’ve left and where I’ve arrived.

I can barely imagine how it must be to move or consider moving under duress, in a situation where you are struggling to stay alive, let alone continue academic work. So in light of my current moving experience, I’ve made some personal decisions about what I need to do.

But one way that some of you may be able to do something, either as an individual or through your institution, is to connect with CARA – the Council for At-Risk Academics. CARA operates throughout Europe and beyond. It supports academics in highly dangerous situations to move and/or to take up a fellowship in another location. You can donate or volunteer your services or organise an event or host a fellow in your university.

Here is the latest news from CARA.

We have received a number of enquiries from university partner colleagues, asking what we are doing, or hope to do, to help academics in Gaza.

As always, our focus is on the individual academics who need and deserve help, not on the politics. We have for some years been supporting Palestinian Fellows; and we have been following the recent tragic events in and around Gaza with deep concern. As we reported recently, one of our ‘alumni’ has already been killed there. Another is still in Gaza; we have a further placement lined up for him in the UK but almost nobody is able to leave at the moment, so he is having to stay, in very dangerous circumstances.

Some other academics in Gaza have also contacted us in recent weeks, seeking our help to get away. We are keeping in touch with them as best we can, given the very poor internet connectivity there now. Again, they cannot leave at the moment, and even keeping in touch with us can expose them to danger. We understand that, for some people at least, just getting a signal means going out into the open, and on raised ground. We urge them not to take risks.

We very much hope that peace can be restored soon, of course, and we will be ready to help as soon as people can leave. We hope that our university partners will be able to support us in this, with further placement offers, and invite them to contact us if they can.

When it becomes possible to rebuild higher education in the area more generally, we hope to be able to help with this too, using the experience we have gained through our three regional programmes (e.g. our Syria Programme). But we are unable to plan anything specific as long as the present crisis continues.