The Philipp Schwartz Initiative of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation: Funding for at-risk researchers

The Philipp Schwartz Initiative enables universities and research institutions in Germany to host researchers at risk on the basis of a 24 months full fellowship or contract.

In 2015, the Philipp Schwartz Initiative (PSI) was launched by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Federal Foreign Office and enables German universities and research institutions to host researchers at risk on the basis of a fellowship. The Initiative is financed by the Federal Foreign Office, the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, the Gerda Henkel Foundation, the Klaus Tschira Foundation, the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the Stifterverband and the Stiftung Mercator.

More than 220 threatened researchers from e.g., Turkey, Syria or Iran have so far managed to continue their research in Germany. Currently (as of January 2020) there are about 120 Philipp Schwartz Fellows in Germany. For more information please see the just to the 5th anniversary of the Initiative published brochure. The first fellowship holder at TUM was able to start his research stay in 2017. In 2019/2020, seven additional fellowships were awarded to researchers from Turkey and Yemen, who are now able to conduct their research at TUM for two years.

Already in 2016, TUM has successfully applied with a support concept as a hosting institution. Therefore, new applications can build upon an existing central support concept. Interested TUM professors are strongly encouraged to contact TUM ForTe. We offer to support you in finding suitable candidates for a Philipp Schwartz Fellowship. The application process is carried out centrally via TUM ForTe in consultation with you and in cooperation with other TUM institutions.

Furthermore, we offer interested researchers our support in finding a suitable host professor at the TUM. In total we expect 2-3 calls for applications from the Philipp Schwartz Initiative per year.

Since 2019 the Technical University Munich is also member at "Scholars at Risk", an organization that makes a commitment to freedom of research and to threatened researchers worldwide.

DAAD contact point Afghanistan

As a reaction to the current situation in Afghanistan, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has set up a contact point for German universities. Main concern is to establish an information and advisory service, that can give up to date information on the scientific field, admirative questions, and support to host researchers at risk. The DAAD contact point Afghanistan is located at the Kompetenzzentrum Internationale Wissenschaftskooperationen (KIWi) and can be contacted via Mail or by phone via the DAAD-Kompetenzzentrum hotline (+49 (0) 228 882 9 882).

For more information, please visit also the website (currently just available in German).

Besides the Phillip Schwartz Initiative, the following funding and support options exist for researchers at risk:

Academy in Exile (AiE)

Academy in Exile was founded in 2017 as a joint initiative of the Institute for Turkish Studies at the University of Duisburg-Essen, the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI) Essen and the Forum Transregionale Studien Berlin. The Academy understands themselves as an add on to the already existing support structure. They are offering threatened researchers the opportunity to continue their research in Germany. The researchers are mostly from the fields of social sciences, humanities and law studies. For that purpose, there are 12-24 month fellowships and three months emergency stipends. Furthermore, AiE offers online courses, conferences and workshops that are co-organized by the supported researchers. Calls for application are acyclic and usually tied to Berlin or Essen.

The Volkswagen Foundation has awarded Academy in Exile a new grant for Afghan scholars, cultural producers, and journalists. They can apply for two-year fellowships to continue their work in Germany. For inquiries, please contact or visit the website.

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Since 2015 the DFG makes an effort to integrate refugee scientists and academics in research and society. On the one hand, all project leaders and higher education institutions can submit supplemental proposals in existing DFG-funded projects. On the other hand, there is the option of direct funding trough Research Training Groups, Collaborative Research Centres and other DFG-funded coordinated projects, without supplemental proposal, financed from previously approved funds.

Overall condition is that the participation of the integrated researcher makes a valuable contribution to the project. Target group are PhD candidates and Postdocs.

Horizon Europe (EU) – Marie-Skłodowska-Curie-Actions (MSCA) Researchers at Risk 2021

The European Commission recently opened the call MSCA for Researchers at Risk 2021 (HORIZON-MSCA-2021-RR-01) with deadline on 06th January 2022; a grant for Researchers at Risk. Main aim is to support researchers at European, national, and institutional level. On the one hand with a support network across Europe, facilitating access to funding and, on the other hand, increased exposure of researchers at risk to the industry and to the non-academic sector. The expected duration of this action is 36 months.

For mor information please visit the website of the call  or contact the international research funding team at TUM ForTe.

Institute of International Education Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF)

The Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF) is a global program. Since 2002 it already assisted over 850 scholars under threat, in partnership with over 420 host institutions. The first term of the fellowship is limited to 9-12 months with the possibility for extension.

After successful application, possible hosting institutions are identified and brought together with the researcher by the fund. Herby costs for relocation and individual health insurance, sometimes language courses, conference attendance fees, and further career planning help, are covered. In addition, fellows will receive support in family and legal matters and a stipend or a direct benefit by the hosting institution.

Applications can be submitted at any time, with quarterly reviews. The basic requirement is a completed doctorate.


The Off-University was founded foremost by persecuted and/or exiled scientists from Turkey and offers an online educational programme for all threatened students and academics. Proclaimed goal is to act online against travel bans and freedom of science to make academic work, research, and study possible again. Lecturer will be supported though online formats to resume their work.

Universities can act as host institutions. The host university acts as the quality manager and if possible, contracts the scholar at risk directly and may offer them institutional affiliation. Courses take place either only online with the lecturer in their country of origin or as a tandem course with one lecturer in exile at the host university.

Call for courses and lectures are published constantly on the website and on social media. Interested researchers can apply there directly.

Scholars at Risk (SAR)

Scholars at Risk is an international network, that is engaged since over 20 years in supporting and offering sanctuary to researchers at risk, and pushing freedom of science worldwide. The German Section of the global Scholars at Risk Network was established in 2016 under the responsibility of the Humboldt Foundation. The network connects researchers at risk with hosting institutions, mostly on the basis of temporarily positions between 6-24 months. Submission of application is possible at any time and should be made by the scholar at risk. Additionally, SAR gives opportunities for further career planning, networking and relocation.

The lecture series Vivian G. Prins Speaker Series and its online format Virtual Speaker Series offers researchers at risk the opportunity to report on threats to research freedom and attacks against scientist. A compensation is given by the host organisation.


The Volkswagen Foundation supports refugee scholars and scientists from Afghanistan to integrate and to carry on their academic career in Germany. Thereby offering a two year scholarship or a three year project integration. Able for application are researchers who were funded by the Foundation in the last ten years or that are currently funded. An integration of the refugee scholars from Afghanistan in their project is possible for two or three years. Applications can be made at any point after first contacting the respective program manager at the foundation; processing time is about two month.