Scholarship scheme provides support for threatened students at risk

The University of Portsmouth is helping students and academics from emerging economies or states in crisis to continue their studies free from persecution and threats to their lives.

The initiative from the University’s Portsmouth Business School (PBS), in partnership with Scholars at Risk and Amnesty International, provides full scholarships for two PhD students who will then have the potential to implement their research back in their home countries.

Panos Kapotas

Panos Kapotas

The fully-funded three year Scholars at Risk PhD scholarship is intended to enable a suitably qualified researcher to make a substantial scholarly contribution in any area of study within Portsmouth Business School. The Amnesty International PhD scholarship is likely to involve research topics in the broad field of Human Rights law and policy in emerging economies.

Panos Kapotas, senior lecturer at the School of Law at Portsmouth Business School and leader of the initiative, said: “The PBS scholarship scheme is our way to help not only make a difference in the lives of young researchers, but also offer them the tools to help build a better future for their communities back home.”

The scheme enabled Ahmad Abd Rabuh to come to the UK and join the University in March last year after he completed his master’s at the University of Qatar. Despite being born in Qatar and living there for several years during the uprising in Syria, he said that he was told by the Qatari officials at the Immigration Department that he could not receive citizenship and would have to leave after his graduation. Meanwhile in his home country of Syria, his father is “wanted” for protesting against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces; he said that the government has already killed his cousin and arrested his aunt in retaliation, and he feared that he could face the same fate if he returned.

His PhD is in System Management/Finance and Banking, and he said that he hopes to either continue working in academia or to find a job at a firm in a big city such as London, New York or Chicago. Ultimately, however, he wants to return to Syria.

“I want to build back my country so people are safe again and be one of the people founding the new system,” he said.

Omid Shams also joined PBS through the scheme last year. As a journalist and political activist in Iran, he was arrested several times but managed to flee to Denmark with the help of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), which provides temporary shelter for writers and artists at risk. As the end of his two-year stay approached, he heard about Portsmouth’s scheme.

Omid and Panos

Omid and Panos

His research is on mechanisms of indirect censorship, which are usually “untraceable” and involve manipulating and regulating the media to restrict freedom of expression.

Mr Shams said: “It would not be possible for me to return to Iran after my studies – the subject matter of my research could put me at even more risk if I go back. But I hope to work at an international human rights organisation where my research will have an impact on the country.”

This is the second year PBS is running this scheme and has allocated funding to recruit two more scholars this year.

The candidate is expected to have a Master’s degree in a relevant subject matter, although candidates with a 2:1 or above undergraduate degree are also encouraged to apply. They must have a competent level of English (IELTS level 6 or equivalent) to enable them to write their thesis in English.

The PhD opportunity is three years full-time and the successful applicant will be expected to reside in or near Portsmouth. All university fees will be covered in full and approximately £14,000 per annum living expenses will be provided.

Applications and further information can be accessed here:

Applicants should indicate at the top of their personal statement that they are applying for the “PBS Amnesty International/Scholars at Risk Bursary Scheme”.

The deadline for applications is Friday 30 June 2017. Shortlisted candidates will be invited to an interview via Skype soon after the closing date.

For further information, potential candidates are encouraged to contact Dr Panos Kapotas at

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