Educational institutions defend academics under threat

28 March 2013 from 13:30 to 18:00 hrs
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The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Foundation for Refugee Students UAF organised a meeting on the position of scientists and scholars who are under threat. The meeting considered how institutions of higher education in the Netherlands can work with academics who live in countries with repressive regimes. Ms Jet Bussemaker, Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science, was a special guest at the meeting.

Repressive regimes often seek to limit the independent work of scientists and scholars, who are not allowed to speak freely. A growing number of Dutch higher education institutions offer academics under threat the opportunity to pursue their scientific or scholarly work in the Netherlands (temporarily). They do this in close cooperation with the University Assistance Fund (UAF) and the worldwide Scholars at Risk network. These arrangements ensure that the voices of academics under threat continue to be heard in the global scientific and scholarly debate. The Netherlands also benefits from the insights and expertise of its foreign guests.

The arrival of scientists and scholars at risk can also raise difficult questions, however. Is it really the job of Dutch educational institutions to offer them shelter? Is it wise to set aside money for this purpose in a time of austerity? What about the security risk? The Dutch government has already denied Iranian students access to specific study programmes, citing national security concerns. The Dutch Supreme Court recently ruled that this decision was unlawful. What do the universities themselves think?

Ruud Lubbers (UAF Chairman) and Hans Clevers (President of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) kicked off the meeting. After a performance of the successful theatre piece De verboden wetenschapsmonologen [The Forbidden Science Monologues] (directed by John Leerdam), chairman Andrew Makkinga opened the discussion.
Panel members:

  • Louise Gunning President of the Executive Board, University of Amsterdam
  • Nico Schrijver, Academy Committee for Freedom of Scientific Pursuit 
  • Bert van der Zwaan, Vice-Chancellor, Utrecht University 
  • Lionel Veer, Human Rights Ambassador for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ms Bussemaker gave the concluding address and took receipt of the publication De Verboden Wetenschapsmonologen, presented to her by Mardjan Seighali (UAF Director).