Academic Freedom under Threat: Global and Local Perspectives

The last year has shown that academic freedom is under threat globally and locally. The escalation of the conflict in Israel/Palestine in particular has raised issues about physical threats to individuals and institutions, threats of censorship and increases in hate speech. These threats are not unique to that conflict or that region. From Ukraine to Afghanistan to Sudan and from Belfast to Boston, academic freedom faces numerous challenges, both obvious direct threats and more subtle risks.

In this conference we highlight some of these threats and publicise the annual Scholars at Risk report Free to Think which details many examples of threats across the globe. We will hear from scholars presenting perspectives, both global and local, on academic freedom and we will have the opportunity to learn more about the work of Scholars at Risk and examples of good practice in the support for the continuation of academic practice for those at risk, in exile and displaced, including that offered by the Council of At Risk Academics.

This event is organised by SAR-Ireland. It is supported by the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University of Belfast (QUB), and the Transitional Justice Institute (TJI) and INCORE at Ulster University (UU).

The event will be opened with remarks from Prof Archie Clement Pro-Vice-Chancellor (PVC) for Research and Enterprise (QUB). Confirmed speakers include Prof Graham Ellison (QUB), Prof Roja Fazaeli (University of Galway), Dr Liudmyla Fihurska (QUB), Prof Colin Harvey (QUB), Dr Mohammed Hassan (Essex), Prof Nigel Healey (University of Limerick), Goretti Horgan (Ulster), Dr Tetiana Kolisnyk (QUB), Dr Chandana Mathur (Maynooth), Dr. Abdul Aziz Mohibbi (Maynooth), Dr Helen Murray (King’s College London), Prof Rowena Pecchenino (Maynooth, former chair of SAR Ireland), Denise Roche (SAR Europe and Maynooth).

The conference will include a Performance by Swar and Hasoun (Syria) and Conor (Ireland) of Beyond Skin and the Musicians Artists as Risk Resettlement Scheme (MARRS).

Tea/coffee and a light lunch will be provided. Directions to the MAC can be accessed here.

DRAFT Programme

Tea / coffee



Launch of Report Free to Think

Welcome by Prof Rory O’Connell, Ulster University, and Prof Dina Belluigi, Queen’s University Belfast

Opening – Prof Archie Clement Pro-Vice-Chancellor (PVC) for Research and Enterprise, Queen’s University of Belfast

The Free to Think Report – Denise Roche, SAR-Europe, Maynooth University

Reflections on SAR-Ireland by Prof Rowena Pecchenino, Maynooth University

10.45-11.15 Between solidarity and silencing: A long view on building links between Palestinian and UK universities

Chair: Prof Dina Belluigi, Queen’s University of Belfast

Dr Helen Murray, King’s College London

11.15-11.45 Tea/Coffee


Global Perspectives on Academic Freedom

Chair: Dr Chandana Mathur, Maynooth University

Dr Abdul Aziz Mohibbi, Maynooth University

Dr Tetiana Kolisnyk, Queen’s University Belfast

Dr Mohammed Hassan, University of Essex

Dr Liudmyla Fihurska, Queen’s University Belfast


Lunch, Tea/Coffee


Introduction to Beyond Skin and Musicians at Risk

Introduction to Beyond Skin and the Musicians Artists as Risk Resettlement Scheme (MARRS)

Performance by Swar and Hasoun (Syria) and Conor (Ireland)


Academic Freedom in these islands

Chair: Prof Nigel Healey, University of Limerick

Prof Colin Harvey, Queen’s University Belfast

Goretti Horgan, Ulster University

Prof Graham Ellison, Queen’s University Belfast

Prof Roja Fazaeli, University of Galway

16.15 Close

Prof Brandon Hamber, Ulster University

The event is finished.


Feb 20 2024


9:30 am - 4:00 pm