The Scholars at Risk fellowship is intended to provide a safe environment for a scholar to pursue research and scholarly or artistic interests; it is not envisaged as an opportunity to mobilize political support on the issues giving rise to the scholar's predicament (though such activity is not excluded). At present, Harvard’s Scholars at Risk fellowship, which lasts for a maximum of ten months, provides stipend, insurance coverage, and travel (depending on the location of the scholar and the number of dependents). Some fellows may return to the home country once it is safe; others may, for personal reasons, decide to pursue residency in the US or elsewhere. Regardless, at the end of the fellowship period, fellows will have to return to the home country or seek placement elsewhere. From the time of arrival, Harvard SAR engages with fellows to explore possibilities for next steps and to work towards securing accommodation for the post-fellowship year.
Any scholar who faces a risk of persecution on account of belief, scholarship, or identity is eligible. SAR fellows need not be refugee scholars. Only scholars that meet appropriate academic standards in their own fields are considered. Writers, artists, thinkers, and independent intellectuals who pursue scholarly work may count as "scholars," even if they are not employed at an academic institution. "Risk" includes the threat of repression and/or punishment arising out of the scholar's work, their prominence, and/or their exercise of fundamental human rights. General insecurity and instability affecting the whole population of a country indiscriminately will not normally qualify. The decision about what counts as sufficient risk, and who meets the criteria for being considered a "scholar" in practice, will be made by the Scholars at Risk Committee, whose members will determine each year's selection/s from among the nominations received. The committee reserves the right to check credentials and accounts of the risks faced.