Dossier Philipp Schwartz Initiative

Since 2016, the Philipp Schwartz Initiative has enabled German universities and research institutions to host foreign researchers who are threatened by war and persecution in their own countries for a period of two years.

Symbolbild Philipp-Schwartz-Initiative: Drei gelbe Kreise mit einer Figur, die von einem zerstörten Tempel zu einem intakten Tempel läuft
Saturn-ähnliches Dekortationsbild


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A safe haven for international researchers fleeing from war and persecution

The Initiative grants funding to German universities and research institutions which they can use to finance such foreign academics for two years. The Humboldt Foundation launched the programme together with the Federal Foreign Office. Universities that apply for sponsorship under the Philipp Schwartz Initiative must submit, amongst other things, a strategy explaining how they will treat threatened researchers and integrate them academically.

A new beginning for researchers at risk Brochure for the fifth anniversary of the Philipp Schwartz Initiative in 2021 (PDF, 8 MB) 

“The Humboldt Foundation has been committed to helping researchers at risk and promoting freedom of science in concrete ways for years now,” emphasises Robert Schlögl, the President of the Humboldt Foundation. “This involvement is very important to me because excellence must go hand-in-hand with humanitarianism.”


Philipp Schwartz Fellows from 26 countries of origin at 128 host institutions
Fellows Country
41,9 % Turkey
22,7 % Ukraine
14,0 % Syria
21,4 % 23 others *
* including Afghanistan, Belarus, Irak, Iran, Jemen, Kamerun, Myanmar, Russland, Venezuela
57,3 % male
42,5 % female
0,2 % non-binary
Fellows Field
41,0% Natural sciences
24,0% Social sciences
23,0% Humanities
12,0% Engineering sciences

Philipp Schwartz Initiative: Programme information and documents 

Network and model for other safe haven projects

As well as sponsoring individuals, the initiative also seeks to provide a platform for information sharing on the situation of threatened researchers. In this context, the Humboldt Foundation cooperates with international partner organisations such as the Scholars at Risk Network, the Scholar Rescue Fund and the Council for At-Risk Academics. Until March 2022, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is also hosting the secretariat of the German Section of the Scholars at Risk Network, founded in 2016.

The Initiative has become a blueprint for other programmes in Europe. The Collège de France, for instance, has established PAUSE, its own aid programme for threatened researchers that is modelled on the Philipp Schwartz Initiative. PAUSE is, moreover, one of the Humboldt Foundation’s partners in the EU project InSPIREurope in which ten organisations from nine European countries have got together to campaign for the interests of threatened researchers under the leadership of the newly established European office of Scholars at Risk.

Philipp Schwartz
The Philipp Schwartz Initiative is named after the Jewish pathologist who had to flee from Nazi Germany in 1933 and founded the “Emergency Society of German Scholars Abroad”.

The pathologist Philipp Schwartz (*19 / 07 / 1894) became a professor of pathology at Goethe University Frankfurt in 1927. Being from a Jewish family, he was summarily dismissed from the university in 1933 when the National Socialists seized power. He fled to Switzerland where he founded the “Notgemeinschaft deutscher Wissenschaftler im Ausland” (Emergency Society of German Scholars Abroad) in the same year. Its aim was to find employment abroad for persecuted academics. The organisation interceded on behalf of several hundred refugee researchers. Most of them went to Turkey, where Kemal Atatürk was in the process of reforming the higher education system based on the Western European model. Schwartz personally negotiated with representatives of the Turkish government and immediately managed to secure places there for 30 researchers who had been dismissed from posts in Germany. The Emergency Society also cooperated with the Academic Assistance Council, the predecessor of the Council for At-Risk Academics. In 1934, Schwartz himself accepted a chair at the newly established Istanbul University, becoming director of the Institute of Pathology. After the Second World War, his desired return to Frankfurt University as a professor was denied him. He emigrated to the United States in the early 1950s and continued to work as a pathologist at Warren State Hospital in Pennsylvania, where he headed a geriatric research institute from 1967 onwards. Schwartz died in the United States in 1977.


Dr. Anan Alsheikh Haidar

A unique opportunity for me

Anan Alsheikh Haidar fled Syria in 2013. Her work as a professor of criminal law at the University of Damascus had put her name on the blacklist of Bashar al-Assad's government. With a fellowship of the Philipp Schwartz Initiative, she came to the University of Cologne.

Prof. Dr. Jeff Wilkesmann

We had absolutely no prospects

Jeff Wilkesmann had to leave his home country Venezuela in 2017. His university was closed after a military intervention. Time and again, professors in the country disappeared. Thanks to a fellowship of the Philipp Schwartz Initiative, he was able to continue his work at the Mannheim University of Applied Sciences.

Robert Quinn

What is academic freedom?

Academic freedom must be protected! Robert Quinn, Executive Director of the Scholars at Risk Network, has written an essay on the importance of academic freedom to mark the fifth anniversary of the Philipp Schwartz Initiative in 2021.

Ghanya Al-Naqeb steht in einer herbstlichen Naturumgebung und blickt lächelnd in die Ferne.

I feared for my life

In Yemen, Ghanya Al-Nageb experienced how scientists from her faculty disappeared. The nutrition scientist was able to continue her career at the University of Würzburg. Meanwhile, she researches and teaches in Italy.

Mahmod Muhsen steht hinter der Glasfassade eines modernen Gebäudes und blickt in die Kamera..

Hope for a better future will never fade away

The veterinarian Mahmod Muhsen was able to continue his research at the University of Leipzig. Because of the war, he had not been able to return to Syria.

Doppelporträt: Prof. Dr. Ulrike Freitag und Prof. Dr. Arnulf Quadt

Why the effort is worthwhile

Professor Ulrike Freitag and Professor Arnulf Quadt host Philipp Schwartz Fellows. In this interview, they speak about the challenges of integration and bureaucratic hurdles.

This programme is financed by

This programme is supported by