2023W: SAR Scholars in Prison Engagementship

Thank you for your interest. Applications are now closed.


This co-curricular opportunity is a collaboration between the UBC Human Rights Collective (HRC), which is part of the UBC Office of Regional and International Community Engagement (ORICE), and the global Scholars at Risk (SAR) Network. Students will engage in research and scholarly informed activism in support of SAR’s Scholars in Prison Project– which seeks to support and free wrongfully imprisoned scholars and students around the world. This year’s case will focus on imprisoned scholars in India, China, Iran, Belarus, and Egypt. 

This is a two-semester engagement. In semester one, students will spend time learning about their assigned scholar, with the goal of understanding the political, legal, and social contexts related to their imprisonment. They will engage in two forms of human rights research and produce two deliverables for SAR. The first will track key advocacy already undertaken by other stakeholders who have also advocated in these cases. Secondly, students will establish media monitoring protocols to aid SAR in their human rights monitoring and reporting. Both of these will be included in the scholars’ file at SAR.

In semester two, students will engage in a scholarly informed mode of advocacy on behalf of their scholar(s) and complete monitoring and evaluation of their work. Decisions on the mode of advocacy will be made based on analysis from semester one and in consultation with SAR, HRC staff, and faculty. Previous examples of advocacy include the submission of reports to the federal government’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights, formal petitions to the Canadian government, film screening and letter-writing events, and awareness-raising webinars. In some cases, students may work with students working on SAR projects at other universities. (For example, in previous years students have worked with students at Carleton (Canada), Drexel (USA), and Dundee (Scotland).)

In both semesters, students will spend a fair amount of time also reflecting on important critical discussions such as power, positionality, neo-colonialism, and other debates related to ‘Western’ discourses of human rights.

Participating students will be invited to attend SAR’s “ Student Advocacy Days’ which will take place in the spring of 2024. Students may be partially financially supported for the Advocacy Day event.

Focus areas: academic freedom, arbitrary detention, human rights, prisoners’ rights, diplomacy, international relations, civil society, advocacy, scholar-activism

Deliverables and Outputs: Human rights monitoring and reporting, advocacy tracking, reflection on scholar-activism, advocacy for imprison scholar, project monitoring and evaluation

Project dates: Week of October 2, 2023, to April 12, 2024

Weekly in-person meetings: Wednesdays from 10am-12noon


  • Be an undergraduate student (domestic or international) at the UBC Vancouver campus with 60 or more completed credits as of August 31st, 2023.
  • Undergraduate students not meeting 60 credits, as well as graduate students, can apply but preference will be given to undergraduate students with 60+ credits.
  • Confirmed availability to meet all regularly scheduled meetings on Wednesday’s from 10am- 12noon. 
  • Have access to a reliable internet connection and computer to collaborate with peers and attend meetings remotely if online meetings are required.
  • Demonstrate the ability to think critically and creatively and be willing to take responsibility and initiative to meet project deliverables.
  • Prior knowledge about academic freedom, arbitrary detention, human rights, diplomacy, and civil society activism is an asset, but not necessary

Applicants are also eligible to apply for the ORICE Experiential Education Accessibility Award. Learn more about the award here.

How to apply:

Thank you for your interest. Applications are now closed.

Please reach out to us at ubc.hrc@ubc.ca if you have any questions.

What to expect:

Over a period from October 2023 to April 2024, teams of students will spend 3-5 hours each week working collaboratively towards completing the reports, monitoring, advocacy, and related analysis/evaluation. Whilst approximately 10 students will be working on the project overall, this will be broken down into smaller teams of 2-3 students to work on individual country cases. Students will be asked to participate in weekly scheduled in-person meetings to ensure collaboration and accountability goals are defined and met. However, the remainder of the allotted time will be self-directed or in small work teams as per agreements with teammates. 

See this interview of past program participants on their experience.

Academic integration:

Please note this is a not-for-credit, unpaid research opportunity.


  • Applications Open: August 14, 2023 
  • Deadline: September 17, 2023, 11:59 pm PST
  • Short Interviews: September 21-28, 2023 
  • Offers made by September 29, 2023
  • Acceptances Due: October 3, 2023, 11:59 pm PST 
  • Project dates: October 3, 2023, to April 12, 2024 (First meeting will be October 4, 2023)
  • Weekly meetings: Wednesday from 10 am – 12 noon


Anti-Racism and EDI:

Please review ORICE’s statement of commitment to EDI and anti-racism here.

UBC HRC’s Mission Statement: 

The Human Rights Collective is a welcoming community collective for scholars including students and faculty at all academic levels, communities, organizations, and institutions across disciplines committed to examining, collaborating, and acting towards the advancement of human rights. 

Building upon a foundational understanding of the role that academic freedom plays in the work that we engage in as a collective, we commit to holding an accessible, critical, caring, and reflexive space of engagement. Our work acknowledges power and positionality and we act in solidarity regarding human rights abuses.

The goals of the collective aim to develop, support and secure resources for a community of praxis of engaged scholars. Scholars who lead and participate in teaching and learning, research, solidarity, and community-engaged action toward the advancement of global human rights. We support faculty in teaching initiatives and through partnerships with local and international organizations working in the field of human rights within our network.

To learn more about us, visit https://humanrightscollective.ubc.ca/about/ 

Scholars at Risk (SAR):

Scholars at Risk (SAR) is an international network of institutions and individuals whose mission is to protect scholars and promote academic freedom. By arranging temporary academic positions at member universities and colleges, Scholars at Risk offers safety to scholars facing grave threats, so scholars’ ideas are not lost and they can keep working until conditions improve and they can return to their home countries.

Scholars at Risk also provides advisory services for scholars and hosts, campaigns for scholars who are imprisoned or silenced in their home countries, monitoring of attacks on higher education communities worldwide, and leadership in deploying new tools and strategies for promoting academic freedom and improving respect for university values everywhere.