2022W: SAR Scholars in Prison Engagementship


This co-curricular opportunity is a collaboration between the UBC Human Rights Collective (HRC), which is part of and 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 India, China, Iran, Belarus and Egypt. 

This is a two semester engagement.  In semester one, students will engage in indepth research on their assigned scholar, investigating the political, legal and social contexts related to their imprisonment.  At the same time, they will analyse key advocacy already undertaken by other human rights actors who have also advocated on these cases.  Finally, students will establish media monitoring protocols to aid SAR in their human rights monitoring and reporting.The above will result in a substantial deliverable in the form of a human rights dossier that 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 formal monitoring and evaluation of their work. Reflections will investigate critical discussion such as power, positionality, neo-colonialism and other debates related to ‘western’ discourses of human rights’.  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 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).)

Participating students will be invited to attend SAR’s “Canada Student Advocacy Days’ which will take place in spring of 2023 in Ottawa. Students will 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, reflection on scholar-activism, project monitoring and evaluation

Project dates: Week of September 19, 2022 to April 8, 2022

UBC HRC’s Mission Statement: 

The Human Rights Collective is a welcoming community collective for scholars including students and faculty at all academic levels, community, organizations and institutions across disciplines committed to examine, collaborate and act 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 towards 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 it 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 are able to 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.

What to expect:

Over a period from September 2022 to April  2023, teams of students will spend 3-5 hours each week to work collaboratively towards completing the reports, monitoring, advocacy and related analysis/evaluation. Whilst 10-15 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 calls or meetings to ensure collaboration and accountability goals are defined and met. However, much of the allotted time will be self-directed as per agreements with teammates. Where possible, these sessions will be embedded in weekly calls or meetings though some may fall outside of regularly scheduled times.  Depending on COVID restrictions and accessibility requirements of the team, some meetings may also occur in person or take an online/hybrid format.

Academic integration:

Please note this is a not-for-credit, unpaid research opportunity. If you are interested in making this a student-directed study course, please contact ubc.orice@ubc.ca to discuss the possibility of this option.


  • Be an undergraduate student (domestic or international) at the UBC Vancouver campus with 60 or more completed credits as of August 31st, 2022.
  • Undergraduate students not meeting 60 credits, as well as graduate students, can apply but preference will be given to undergraduate students with 60+ credits.
  • 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
  • Able to work within Pacific Time Zone (PST) in cases where virtual meetings are required.

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

Anti-Racism and Ethics of Engagement:

The UBC HRC and the Office for Regional and International Community Engagement (UBC ORICE) are committed to embedding anti-racism in our daily work and ongoing projects. Students are encouraged and expected to consider how they can take an anti-racist lens to the work they produce around citizen science, data collection and use, and connections between community-based organizations, academics, and government. This might include, but is not limited to, ensuring the incorporation of the ongoing and often unrecognized work of organizations advocating for justice for minorities, particularly during the pandemic; or engaging with the politics of citation in including and citing the work of non-white scholars and other researchers. 


  • Deadline: September 11, 2022 @ 11.59pm PST
  • Short interviews by: weeks of September 12 -16, 2022
  • Project dates: Week of September 19, 2022 to April 8 2023

How to apply

Thank you for your interest. The recruitment for this program has now closed.

Please see our current co-curricular programs page for upcoming programs and reach out to us at ubc.hrc@ubc.ca if you have any questions.