Dossier Philipp Schwartz Initiative

Their home countries are blighted by war, their freedom of research is curtailed or they are persecuted: in many parts of the world, scientists and scholars are in danger. The Philipp Schwartz Initiative helps researchers who have fled their countries to find their feet at German universities and research institutions.

Nedal Said from Syria (second from left) and the Turkish translation scholar Meral Camci (second from right)
Since summer 2016, the first fellows have been working together with German colleagues: Nedal Said from Syria (second from left) at UFZ Leipzig; the Turkish translation scholar Meral Camci (second from right) at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (Photos: Humboldt Foundation/Nikolaus Brade/Alexander Paul Englert).

Safe at last

The Syrian microbiologist Nedal Said is one of the first beneficiaries of the initiative. He fled to Germany via Turkey and embarked on his fellowship at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig in summer 2016. “I work in science. Colleagues support me, and my family is with me at last – I am a whole person again,” says the 43-year-old. The translation scholar Meral Camci from Istanbul is also one of the first Philipp Schwartz Fellows. She was subjected to massive pressure in Turkey, served her notice as a professor and was even held in custody for several weeks. Today, she conducts her research at the University of Mainz.

Hope for 69 researchers

So far, the Philipp Schwartz Initiative has supported a total of 69 researchers who have fled from their own countries. The initiative grants funding to German universities and research institutions which they can use to finance these foreign academics for two years. The Humboldt Foundation launched the initiative 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 endangered researchers and integrate them academically.

A bonus for German universities

“We want to set an example for the international mindset of academia in Germany,” emphasises Helmut Schwarz, the President of the Humboldt Foundation. “We help people who can benefit our science system and who will be urgently needed in their own countries when the time comes, in the hopefully not too distant future, for reconstruction.”

Having granted sponsorship to 23 researchers in summer 2016, it was possible to increase the number selected to 46 in the second round. In comparison with the first call, the fellows’ home countries have changed: whilst the majority of fellows in the first selection round came from Syria, most of the fellows in the second selection round hail from Turkey.

Universities selected

Second selection round in December 2016

  • RWTH Aachen
  • University of Bamberg
  • University of Bayreuth
  • International Psychoanalytic University Berlin
  • Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research
  • Technische Universität Berlin
  • Zentrum Moderner Orient Berlin
  • Bielefeld University
  • EBZ Business School Bochum
  • Ruhr-Universität Bochum
  • BICC Bonn International Center for Conversion
  • University of Bonn
  • Technische Universität Braunschweig
  • University of Bremen
  • Technische Universität Darmstadt
  • Technische Universität Dresden
  • University of Duisburg-Essen
  • Hochschule Düsseldorf, University of Applied Sciences
  • Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space
  • Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
  • Arnold Bergstraesser Institute
  • Leibniz Universit├Ąt Hannover
  • Justus Liebig University Giessen
  • Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum Heidelberg
  • Heidelberg University
  • University of Hohenheim
  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology – KIT
  • The Kiel Institute for the World Economy
  • University of Cologne
  • HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management
  • Frankenförder Forschungsgesellschaft mbH (FFG)
  • Philipps-Universität Marburg
  • Technical University of Munich
  • University of Münster
  • Osnabrück University
  • University of Potsdam
  • University of Siegen
  • Hochschule Weihenstephan-Triesdorf, University of Applied Sciences
  • Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

First selection round in June 2016

  • University of Bayreuth
  • Freie Universität Berlin
  • Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
  • Ruhr-Universität Bochum
  • University of Bonn
  • University of Bremen
  • University of Duisburg-Essen
  • Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
  • Goethe University Frankfurt
  • Justus Liebig University Giessen
  • Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
  • Heidelberg University
  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology – KIT
  • University of Cologne
  • Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Leipzig
  • Universität Leipzig
  • Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
  • Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
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” (Photo: Archive G. Kreft).

Networks for researchers at risk

As well as sponsoring individuals, the initiative also seeks to provide a platform for information sharing on the situation of endangered 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 2019, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is also hosting the secretariat of the newly-founded German Section of the Scholars at Risk Network.


Alexandra Hostert
Press, Communications and Marketing
Phone: +49 228 833-257
Fax: +49 228 833-441

Georg Scholl
Head of
Press, Communications and Marketing
Phone: +49 228 833-258
Fax: +49 228 833-441