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Finnish higher education institutions are interested in supporting Syrian and Iraqi researchers

At the beginning of the year, Finland joined the Scholar Rescue Fund programme, which allows five researchers under threat or persecution to come to Finland to do research or to teacher over the next three years.

The Associate Director of the Scholar Rescue Fund, James King, came to Finland to learn about Finnish higher education and visit higher education institutions. King visited the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, meeting staff working for international affairs as well as management.

The background organisation for the programme is the US Institute International Education (IIE).”We have been looking for ways to support students and teachers whose studies and academic careers have been cut because of the war in Syria for a long time here at CIMO. For this reason, the grants were restricted to researchers from Syria and Iraq", says Maija Airas, Head of Unit at CIMO.

The aim is to support 5 Syrian or Iraqi researchers in the beginning of their careers to come to Finnish universities either to do research or to teach for a period of 9 to 12 months. People can also apply for an extension for another year.

Higher education in crisis

James King was describing the catastrophic impact of the crisis in Syria and Iraq to the countries' higher education in an event organised by CIMO:

”There is an enormous humanitarian crisis going on in Syria, which is also a crisis for higher education. Before the war, 25% of young people in Syria studied in higher education; we already talk about a lost generation. Approximately a third of professors have had to flee from the country. In Iraq, a country with one of the oldest academic traditions in the world, about 550 researchers have been killed over the last few decades. Isis has closed 8,500 faculties, which had a total of 55,000 students."

The scholarship programme includes many European countries as partners, such as France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and the UK.

Rolling deadline

The launch event also covered guidance to applicants, attended by about 20 participants from different universities in Finland. Some of them already had a potential candidate who met the criteria of the programme in mind.

The Scholar Rescue Fund and CIMO will fund the scholarships jointly. The support from the Scholar Rescue Fund for a researcher coming to Finland will be 25,000 US dollars, and in addition CIMO will pay the researcher 1,500 euros per month and 5,000 euros as relocation allowance.

A Finnish higher education institution applies for the funding to be paid on to the scholar.

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