The Foundation of WUS and its development over the years

One hundred years is a long life for an organisation that is based on voluntarism so it is important to record the history of World University Service, as it has been known since 1950. It is also pertinent that an organisation that was founded to assist students in Europe in the aftermath of World War I is still assisting refugees to continue their studies. As this account reveals, that is not the only work that WUS has done: as political, economic, cultural and economic changes continue to sweep the world, WUS programs have responded. There may only be a few national committees still in operation, but that should not diminish the work with which they are engaged. To highlight that continuity, this account begins with details of the forerunner organisations and emergence of World University Service. Appendix I provides an account of some of the eminent people who have been involved with WUS over the decades.     

The early years: basic material needs of students

The beginnings of World University Service (WUS) lie in the two years following the First World War. Its first predecessor – European Student Relief (ESR) – was founded on August 7, 1920, in St. Beatenberg, Switzerland, affiliated to the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), which had existed since 1895. As a formal sub-organisation of WSCF. ESR was formally registered in the Austrian Register of Associations.

The idea of forming an organisation to alleviate the plight of students in the post-World War I period originated in 1919 at a WSCF conference in Switzerland. A group of participants from 39 countries reflected that in the face of hunger, housing, clothing shortages, lack of books and study materials, disease outbreaks and consequent early mortality, what was needed now was not theoretical discussion but practical action. Thus, it was decided to form a small, purpose-driven committee, which can be seen as the forerunner of ESR. It was thereby assumed that aid would become unnecessary by July 1921, which was soon to prove naïve (Rouse, 1925, p.188 ff). The truly first international ecumenical relief organisation (see Hartley, 1988: pp.1, 2, and 5.) has existed under a different name, with different goals and in different organisational forms until today.

The actual, informal impetus to form a relief organisation came from student activists and leaders of student associations in Vienna, Austria, who approached the WSCF in London with appeals for help. One of these was Herbert Petrick, who invited a secretary of WSCF, Ruth Rouse, to Vienna so that she could view the great plight of the students. She wrote of her visit in February 1920, “Vienna…remains burnt in my memory as a yet nearer thing to hell” (Rouse 1925, p.14). She made an immediate appeal for help to the 40 student groups of the WSCF worldwide and received significant aid money, estimated at $2 million or £474,000 for the period 1921-5: see 50 Years Wus, 1970, p.8) There was also interorganisational collaboration and internationalism in ESR, e.g., with Fridtjof Nansen (High Commission for Russian Refugees) and Herbert Hoover (American Relief Administration) (Hartley, op.cit. p.7ff).

There are two accounts of the initiative for the foundation. Five female students who were independently active in the German Student Union, the two Jewish organisations, the Socialist Union and the Catholic Student Society, were asked by Ruth Rouse, a UK based secretary of the WSCF, to meet in a small private apartment in Vienna. Another account says in her hotel room. The aim was to discuss how to help students in Austria out of their economic distress. Her intention, and that of her secretary, Eleonora Iredale, was to address the economic hardship and health needs of university students by means of a large-scale, internationally oriented aid program. While there were a number of charitable organisations in Vienna, none specifically addressed the plight of students and faculty in Austria, but also not in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland (Rouse, 1925, p. 7ff; Selles, 2011, p. 1).

Additionally, it is reported by WUS United Kingdom that a Scotsman named Donald Grant, a graduate of Edinburgh University, was concerned with the needs of the approximately 15,000 students, including 1,400 female students, in Vienna in 1919/20, and had headed an action founded for this purpose in March 1920. Since he had personal connections with people at Oxford University (he names Agnes Murray and her father, Professor Gilbert Murray), he wrote to these university officials in February 1920 describing the enormous lack of livelihoods for people studying in Austria, especially female students. He asked them in an urgent petition for economic support (see letter enclosed). They responded positively by immediately bundling their aid in the form of food, clothing and financial contributions into an “Austria Student Relief” (ASR).

This ASR was the beginning of the “European Student Relief” in 1921/22, according to Donald Grant in a personal manuscript from 1972. In 1922, the High Academic Senate of the University of Vienna awarded the Golden Medal of Honor of the University to Donald Grant, who had already been awarded honorary membership of the University of Innsbruck, as the director of European Student Relief, and also somewhat later to David Atherton Smith, the deputy director (see Grant 1972 and Academic Senate University of Vienna 1922).

It is not clear from the available sources whether there was a meeting or even a – partial – joint work between Donald Grant with Ruth Rouse and the five female students mentioned. However, this is probable, since they were active in the same field and the number of students, which was about 15,000, was manageable. This is also supported by the fact that both Donald Grant and Ruth Rouse mention the same persons, for example Dr. Conrad Hoffmann (USA) as Secretary General of ESR as well as Agnes Murray, Lady Mary Murray and her husband Professor Gilbert Murray. The latter two received a medal of honour for their services in alleviating the emergency situation in Vienna (Rouse 1925, p. 20).

The founding resolution of ESR in 1920 included the following benefits for students:

  1. provision of food, clothing, fuel for heating, books, etc.
  2. provision of heated and lighted living space for studying.
  3. medications
  4. equipment and materials for training as a means of self-help
  5. assistance for the return of students to their home country

It was especially women who organised assistance for students through ESR (and also through other associations) (see Selles 2011). The activities of ESR were carried out without any state aid or influence. Criteria for assistance were:

  • Is the student in question really in need of help?
  • Is he or she effectively studying and later benefiting his or her country?
  • The aid was not given as a charitable gift, but as a means of helping oneself as well as
  • without regard to origin, nationality, religion and other personal circumstances.

Until June 1922, the support measures were arranged and controlled exclusively by the ESR helpers in co-operation with student communities and their central representative commissions. Then, in June 1922 and 1923, the “Economic Aid” campaign of the Austrian student communities was launched, initially organising only breakfast meals for needy students. Subsequently, however, it expanded its scope as an independent organisation in co-ordination with ESR. The task of “economic relief” was also to find paid work for students in order to avoid unemployment benefits for them (see Grant, 1923, p.1ff). Where practicable, these support measures were provided in co-operation and co-ordination with other charitable organisations, for example, a Jewish and a Ukrainian one, in order to avoid overlap and to reach as many students as possible. Debt was to be avoided at all costs (cf. first ESR Bulletin October 1920; Rouse 1925, pp. 32-33, and Rouse 1948, pp. 248-9).

Student co-operative – from doles to self-help

The emphasis was always on the concept of “helping people to help themselves” and, wherever possible, on the basis of international, student co-operation. A side effect of this was that from now on students were encouraged and also enabled to finance their studies and maintenance as “working students” through work – something that was rather unusual before the First World War. Student self-help ventures in many, mostly craft, subjects and organisations emerged in almost all countries where ESR was present and active.

Thus, for the time being, the acute combating of the economic plight of students was the clear focus of material aid (“Our aim is to meet a purely temporary emergency,” Bulletin July 1921). This is comparable to the situation of the German WUS Committee, founded in 1950, where “fundraising” was the focus of its task until the early 1960s. ESR – and later WUS – was arguably the world’s first human rights organisation with an emphasis on purposeful, practical services, specifically for refugee and migrant students. Advocates of the purity of the German language will probably find the foreign-language terminus technicus “fundraising” disagreeable, but the translation as “raising financial and material resources for direct social assistance” does not reflect the full spirit of the objective, which also consists in conveying to the donors of the funds a committed awareness of a social co-responsibility in an international context.

Later, other tasks were added, such as a platform for the exchange of different opinions, ways of thinking and attitudes and their tolerance. It also brought about a – certainly only partial – dismantling of social class societies, of racism and chauvinistic nationalism: “ESR has saved hundreds of thousands of students from starvation, and thereby also hundreds of thousands and more from national egoism, international ignorance and prejudice.” (Rouse 1948, p. 260)

A rather unusual way of helping German students during the years of inflation in Germany in 1922 and after was actually illegal. However, with government permission, they were able to exchange their savings for foreign currency through ESR, thus hedging them against the devaluation of the German Reichsmark.

Support for refugees and displaced persons – a significant task

The refugee aid of ESR, which was to remain an important field of work within the framework of the support of foreign students until today, initially mainly benefited the thousands of students who had to flee from their home countries, especially from Eastern Europe, to other countries in the post-war years. The care, assistance and protection of student asylum seekers and war refugees formed a significant field of activity for the ESR successors. Student refugee assistance took on particular importance after 1933, when many students were forced to flee or were expelled from the Nazi state of the German Reich.

In the period after World War II, the refugees needed material and non-material support in the host countries, especially after the Hungarian uprising in 1956. To this end, for example, the Bonn local WUS committee, together with the AStA of the University of Bonn, had set up a “Hungary department”. Even before the 1956 popular uprising, people with an academic background had emigrated from Hungary for political reasons. George Soros, who received help from WUS when he emigrated with his father and who did subsequently support WUS International, and also the writer and lawyer George Mikes (“How to be an alien”) are among the best-known Hungarian emigrants who remained in England.

Over time, student refugees from a number of other countries have been given much-needed assistance by WUS and its predecessors, often in close co-operation with national student councils. They came, for example, from Algeria before independence in 1962, Burundi especially after 1972, Chile in 1973, Iran in 1965 and 1973, Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, Greece in 1967, and a number of other Eastern European countries (for details, see WUS in ACTION, p. 42 ff).

The flight after the military coup in Greece in 1967 and the subsequent violent dictatorship, which triggered a great wave of exodus from that country, again presented WUS with new tasks. In co-operation with the Association of German Student Bodies (VDS) and other student organisations, German WUS supported Greek students in their applications for recognition as political refugees and in their applications for asylum. Professor Dr. jur. Ulrich Klug, a member of the German WUS Committee and its president from 1969, was one of the key persons who helped Greek students to obtain their rights as asylum seekers. Among those helped was the Secretary General of Greek WUS, Stelios Nestor.

In the field of refugee education, WUS concluded an agreement with the UNHCR in 1968, especially with regard to the Rwandan refugees from Burundi at that time. The support of foreign students has always been a considerable part of the individual WUS committees, for example in Germany, France, Great Britain, Canada and in the USA. It has been the policy of WUS, in addition to concrete support measures, to name the causes of flight and displacement, namely political, religious and racial discrimination, persecution and harassment, such as apartheid in South Africa, and to combat them with public relations work.

ESR: Everywhere Student Relief

From Vienna, the scope of ESR first spread to 19 European countries, then to all regions in Europe and also in North America, a total of 42 countries on four continents, 19 of which were purely recipient countries. This was generally done with the support of the World Student Christian Federation and the National Union of Students on the ground. Offices were established and staff hired in all of these countries. In 1921, the WUS International Committee in Geneva was established as the coordinating body (with Dr. Conrad Hoffmann as General Secretary and Donald Grant as Co-Director, ESR Representative in Austria and Russia, and Travelling Secretary). The Geneva office was very cost-conscious in its work. Costs from 1920 to 1924 were between 7-8% of total relief funds – surprisingly low given activities in 19 countries (Rouse 1925, p. 69).

During the first 4 years of ESR, three conferences were held – often disagreeing and even discordant – on the nature of the aid: The first in Turnov, Czech Republic, with 83 (other sources: 70) male and female students from all political, religious, and national camps of postwar Europe, followed by an international student conference of ESR in Parad, Hungary, in June 1923, with 130 participants from 32 countries, including a Mr. Legate, Dr. Hoffmann, and Donald Grant. At that time the French army was occupying the Ruhr, so the German delegation opened the conference with a sharp statement against the French “policy of violence.” A heated discussion followed on the admissibility of political discussions until, on a French proposal, a resolution was adopted condemning any use of political force in any country. The German delegation sincerely thanked the French delegation for the resolution, to great applause. The theme of the conference, according to the opinion of the participants, was the distress of the students and not the general political situation.

A description and an explanation of the events at the European universities during the years 1918 to 1923 were also central. Anti-Semitism, which was on the rise in Europe, was also a topic of discussion at the conference and led to the Jewish conferees being seen as a Jewish delegation in their own right, rather than as members of their respective national delegations (Visser’t Hooft 1972).

In order to achieve more publicity, an international student journal, Vox Studentium. was founded with Donald Grant as editor, which was replaced by International Student Service Annals in 1932. In 1960, the main publication WUS in Action was to be launched, which was published biennially in English, French and Spanish from 1961, as well as the monthly news bulletin WUS News from 1968.

The third conference in Germany took place at Schloss Elmau in July 1924. At the previous conferences, the scope of ESR’s tasks had already been discussed and the pure orientation towards fundraising as a means of aid had been questioned. At the 1924 conference, the opinion that had already been expressed in the “Magna Charta of Turnov” prevailed, namely that in view of the improved living conditions in many countries, the work of ESR should be expanded to include the promotion of international solidarity and teamwork, for which ESR could provide the platform. The conference resolved that: “…it expresses the desire that the organisation shall continue in some form to express the ideal of international comradeship and mutual responsibility of students in their cultural task which it has previously expressed in material relief” (Rouse 1925, p. 199).

The keyword now was “cultural co-operation.” For this reason, it was requested that the name ESR, which described the work too narrowly, be changed to International Student Service (ISS), which was decided at a conference in May 1925. In French it should be called L`Entraide Universitaire, in German Weltstudentenwerk.

It is also part of the historical reality that the concept of the internationality of the university ideal was by no means universal and unchallenged, especially not at the Elmau Conference. Nationally oriented political and cultural viewpoints were put forward by various participants, especially German and Russian ones, pointing out the nature of their own cultural heritage. In particular, the view was expressed that an educational policy without religious mediation was impossible, whereas “The Ideals of the University” emphasised that “no education is complete which does not grasp the possibility of the full development of the human spiritual nature and faculties” (Rouse 1925, p. 200).

At the end of her first book Rebuilding Europe (p. 203 ff), Rouse prophesies a future-believing and very optimistic picture of the universities in the next 10 years to 1935: “It will be freer and more perfect, it will secure freedom of the universities from the influence and power of political parties and the freedom of every talented student of whatever origin, religion or color, etc., to study.” Things were to turn out differently. Her optimistic solution for a better world overall, “We can if we will” is strongly reminiscent today of President Barack Obama’s “Yes we can”.

An autonomous body: ISS – International Student Service

Already at the Elmau conference in 1924, the question was raised in the WSCF whether ESR should remain within the cadre of the Christian Federation or become independent, neutral and without a religious background. The first conference under the new name International Student Service (ISS) was held in Geneva, Switzerland, in August 1925, and the following one in Nyborg, Denmark, in August 1926. At the conference, agreement was reached with the previous parent organisation, WSCF, that ISS should be given independent status with its own independent staff, program, policy, with greater student participation and the development of its own structure of strong national groups in “international cultural co-operation”. The mission of ISS should be in the areas of international exchange of the study of university problems and student emergency aid.

But it was to take four more years of consolidation until in 1930 the ISS conference in Oxford, England, achieved the breakthrough to what was called a “New Decade” and a “New University Movement”, “detached from the previous intellectual and spiritual fetters”. “ISS as an organization is not interested in politics. It is interested in people”, a statement said. Whereas the statement emphasised international co-operation, it also stressed deeply ingrained national traditions, differences and diversity, which it said should not be eliminated. The program was accompanied by a number of concrete suggestions – conferences, study tours and research projects (50 Years WUS in ACTION, p.12).

The first crisis in ISS relations arose in June 1934, when Fritz Beck, an ISS member since 1925, was murdered by the National Socialist rulers in Munich. Fritz Beck had already been removed from his post as director of the then Bavarian Student Association for his political views. As a result of his liquidation, the ISS’s relations with Nazi Germany were suspended. They were not continued until 1936, when a “German Circle for International Student Cooperation” was admitted as a member of ISS – though not on an equal footing – for those areas of interest to the Circle. The intention was to be informed about the situation and developments through the participation of student representatives from German universities.

Almost all German students who had been expelled from the universities and had to emigrate from Germany by 1939 – about 5,000 – found material and non-material help in ISS, for example through recognition of their previous periods of study. Relations were broken off by the Deutscher Kreis in 1939, which accused ISS of anti-German policies. A decisive factor was that ISS, together with the French National Union of Students, maintained an extensive aid program for persecuted Jewish students.

Before, during and after the Second World War

At the last General Assembly of ISS before the outbreak of war, in Roehampton (near London) in August 1939, the dangers to the international university community were foreseen. As a result, an Emergency War Executive was formed, based in Switzerland, whose members remained in constant contact with each other. During the first years of the war, the emphasis was on providing study materials for refugee students and other students in prisons and internment camps in the warring countries, including the establishment of “university camps” such as one in Switzerland. Later, aid was extended to distressed students in occupied countries. What was needed was not only material aid such as clothing, food, and medical remedies, but also relief for the cultural, spiritual, and moral needs of the student war generation. The operations of ISS were not limited to the war-ravaged European countries, with relief work extended in particular to many Asian countries with former war zones.

Since the total scope of work was so large that it could not be accomplished by a single organisation, in 1940 ISS, Pax Romana, and the WSCF merged to form the European Student Relief Fund (ESRF), with the ISS having administrative responsibility. These expanded their relief efforts beyond Europe after 1943 under the new name World Student Relief (WSR). In the post-war period in 1947, the International Union of Students (IUS), founded in Prague on August 27, 1946, and the World Union of Jewish Students joined the WSR in 1949. The relief funds were raised through student-initiated appeals for donations.

Since many university buildings and university premises were damaged or completely destroyed during the war and thus lacked rooms, after 1946 plans were developed in Geneva by ISS to establish university rest centres with complete medical facilities, among others in France, Switzerland, Greece, Italy and Austria. With the exception of the internationally supervised “rest centres” in Switzerland (in Leysin) and in Great Britain (in Ashton Hayes), the others catered only to local students of their respective countries. In addition to providing material and medical care, they brought about an end to the isolation of students and universities from one another and offered a variety of cultural and intellectual programs as well as sports activities to improve the overall human condition.

One of these “rest centres” was established in Freiburg i.Br. The restoration of relations with Germany and its university members was not uncontroversial in the ESC and ISS and a topic of discussion at almost every one of their meetings. There were various fears of a resurgence of “Nazism”. For this reason, a commission was sent to German universities at a meeting in Cambridge, England in 1946. In their report, the members of this commission spoke out in favour of contacts and assistance for German students. Above all, they also advocated making available those publications which had been published outside Germany after 1933. Overall, they noted a remarkable need among German students for contact with foreign individuals and organisations.

In total, WSR and ISS carried out student aid programs in almost all European countries – Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, and the Scandinavian countries. In 1946, various student aid programs were also started in war-torn Asian countries, first in Burma, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Japan, and later especially in India and Pakistan, but also in Thailand, Indonesia and Korea.

At the 21st annual conference in Cambridge,England in 1946 and in Aarhus,Denmark in 1947, the reorganisation of ISS was intensively discussed with 120 participants from 30 countries, including African countries and New Zealand, and it was decided to dissolve the special-purpose association WSR and to integrate its programs into the ISS. From 1946 to 1950, the latter was responsible on its own terms for the areas of the university, society and social development, the role and structure of universities and their activities, as well as international understanding and the preservation of peace and freedom. These areas were also to be the basis for World University Service after its installation as an open university organisation for understanding between different views and convictions and as an unbiased platform for lowering traditional barriers.

The background to the dissolution of the ESC was that the five organisations that steered and ultimately financed ESC did not agree on whether international social aid – The Relief Work – should be and remain the sole task or whether other tasks, for example projects for international understanding and reconciliation as well as scientific work, should also be included in the program of activities. The latter was repeatedly advocated, because it was felt that international co-operation in the material sphere was incomplete and insufficient without a common awareness of the urgent problems – especially since the material need was beginning to ease, at least to some extent and in most European countries.

ISS becomes WUS

In 1950, at a meeting in Geneva from December 6-10, the organisation changed its name to World University Service by an electoral committee of 30 people from over 20 countries. This was a deliberate, with the objective to broaden the scope of its work and to make its worldwide activities and projects in the university field clear in its name. This meant that beyond the purely student approach, it was now understood as an international association that should primarily benefit the entire university community and all its members from students to professors worldwide. In addition, stabilisation and a new consolidation were to be achieved. Previously, there had been political disagreements and divisions between member associations within ISS during the war and post-war period due to their affiliation with fundamentally different systems in their countries. A political and ideological neutrality, the freedom of research and teaching as well as the equality of all cultures and ethnic groups were to be emphatically attested with the new name. (The text says “races”, which in German is not to be translated with race, because this German term is understood biologically and not sociologically and thus pejoratively.) To this end the statutes were also revised in 1950 and 1951 by general assemblies of WUS (see 50 Years WUS in ACTION, p. 31/2) and again in 1952 in Grenoble. Keywords:

  • international university solidarity through mutual service
  • meet urgent needs and give moral and material support to those who are striving to overcome as most insuperable physical difficulties
  • international and indigenous co-operation and understanding
  • likelihood that the projects, once initiated, could be maintained wholly or largely on local funds
  • stimulate the responsibilities of students and professors

All aid measures, according to an important principle, should be based on international co-operation, especially in joint work with the local recipients of these measures. Depending on the different factual situation in the individual countries, this should be done with the realisation that without the participation of the target groups, a kind of inappropriate – factual or only perceived – patronage could arise and trigger prejudices and misunderstandings, which WUS wanted to overcome. Particularly in countries with post-colonial development, i.e. above all in Asia and Africa, this approach was seen as worthy of attention. This applies mutatis mutandis also to WUS projects in Latin America, which did not commence until 1960. As a rule, WUS not only received recognition from government agencies for its achievements, but also acted as a so-called “agent provocateur” by virtually forcing the respective government officials to continue the measures it had initiated.

Respect as a significant NGO

In the second half of the 20th century, WUS received worldwide recognition for its support of democratic aspirations and its anti-colonial policy in Latin America and Africa, especially in South Africa and Namibia. The intention of an absolute global orientation of WUS activities to all continents was, however, limited by the fact that there were no WUS committees in the Eastern European countries and in China at the time of the East-West antagonism, i.e. in countries where formerly ESC, WSR and ISS had carried out aid projects. However, contacts remained with agencies in these countries at the international and bilateral levels. WUS also had a rather weak presence in some Arab and African countries, especially French-speaking ones, at that time.

Especially in South Africa, the efforts of WUS were considerable and also very successful, in that the social discrimination and harassment of non-white pupils and students in South Africa due to the apartheid policy there was addressed by SACHED (South African Committee for Higher Education) as part of the WUS program. A compilation of WUS projects in Asian, African and Latin American countries can be found in 50 Years WUS in ACTION  p. 36/7.

Like any organisation, WUS also had a dark hour. In 1953, it was revealed that the US foreign intelligence service, the CIA, was financing full-time WUS staff, especially those of the WUS Indian Committee. According to Olof Palme, this was “an exceedingly corrupt association” (Berggren 2011, p. 218ff). This meant a bitter setback for WUS and its influence and reputation with the public. However, it was soon won back by a complete reorganisation of WUS India, by sober work and diverse program work in India, so that the Indian committee of WUS could again fully participate in international WUS.

WUS and the “development aid” requirement

In 1961, the term development aid first came into being when the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) was founded on September 30, 1961, with its headquarters in Paris. Its task was to co-ordinate what was then known as “development aid” internationally and to co-ordinate it better with one another. Since the 1990s, partnership-oriented win-win development co-operation has more or less replaced development aid as the term used in development policy. This change of terminology, i.e. the claim of a partnership-based equality of donor and recipient countries, also illustrates the philosophy that WUS represents in this field of activity.

Initially, however, the focus was on combating material hardship in the countries of the so-called “Third World”, hunger and malnutrition. Thus, the then Secretary General of international WUS, Hans Dall, who died in 2019, demanded at an FAO conference in October 1965 “that every government and non-governmental organization, every individual, you and I, if we do not increase our efforts a hundredfold and again to meet this danger will accomplish before the fact of murder”.

Even before that, WUS had included corresponding “Freedom from Hunger” projects in its “International Programme of Action”, primarily at that time in the training of specialists for agricultural enterprises, for example for students in African and Asian universities and technical colleges. In co-operation with other university organisations, such as the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), numerous high-profile congresses were held on the role of students in development policy (for details, see WUS in ACTION, p. 46). WUS has consultative status with the United Nations (ECOSOC and UNESCO) and cooperates with UN departments such as UNHCR and the UN Human Rights Organization.

The “Essentials” of WUS

Since its beginnings in 1920, WUS has undergone constant changes and innovations, in terms of subject matter and content as well as in terms of countries. If in the beginning the activity was essentially limited to the distressed European university communities, as the word relief indicates, a new phase was initiated in the years 1953/54. By extending the projects and activities also administratively, for example by founding WUS committees, to the young university communities in many African countries, the aims and programs of WUS generally met with an extraordinarily high level of attention (see WUS International, Annual Report 1953/4).

In terms of content, the focus of activity also shifted. One spoke of essentials, which revolved around international solidarity, which also included fundraising, and international education, as well as partnerships among students and university members. At the same time, WUS was at no time a pure charity association, not a university Red Cross, even if the focus at the beginning was more on the alleviation of hardships due to the time. Thus, already at the time of its foundation, the aim was to bring together the university communities in different countries – certainly not always an easy undertaking. However, WUS leaders have never lost sight of this basic goal in all their activities over the course of 100 years.

There was also the question of the political neutrality of WUS within the field of activity. This neutrality was generally represented in the WUS committees as one of the general principles of a worldwide university community, whereas in German WUS a political dimension of its own business was definitely seen. The preamble of WUS International stated that “the spirit of our work is based on the pursuit of truth […] which includes resistance to any external pressure” and “an active engagement with the needs and problems of modern society”. This can be interpreted as a clear mandate simultaneously for social-political (not party-political) action. In the statutes of German WUS there are no references to an appropriate political mandate (see 10 years of the WUS in Germany, p. 140ff). Nevertheless, in the course of its development many members of German WUS saw a political dimension to their own actions (on this question see H. Breier and H. Ganns).

Significance of International WUS for the university present worldwide

WUS itself and its fields of activity were always results of contemporary developments at universities as well as of adaptations to the social and, above all, to the persistently more international environment. For example, at the General Assembly of international WUS in Tokyo in 1962, the Executive Committee and the General Secretariat were instructed, after consulting the national committees, to prepare a fundamental discussion on the “role and effectiveness of  WUS” and to submit corresponding proposals. It became clear that there were considerable differences of opinion in the individual committees, but also that a common “code of conduct” must be observed (for details see WUS News 8).

As a result of the subsequent discussions, it became unmistakable in 1982 that a reorientation of the content and concept of WUS was inevitable, which was to take into account the conditions now prevailing in the world of higher education: the emphasis was now on the social, legal and political representation of the interests of foreign students vis-à-vis the state and society and on the activity as an agent in international development co-operation and in development projects both at home and abroad.

Under the talars dust of 1,000 years

At the end of the 1950s/beginning of the 1960s, general social civil rights movements occurred in many countries, especially in the Western democracies, but also in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Latin America, which may be called the first global mass uprising. It is also referred to as the “student movement” because many of the triggers and main protagonists were students, male and female, who initially opposed only rigid structures and the bureaucratic nature of the university structure which omitted a student voice. Very soon, their protest against the body of traditions in society expanded and they opposed dominant norms in social, cultural and political spheres, exposing domination and oppression in many societies. Keywords are anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism. Concrete demonstrations were held, for example, against the Vietnam War of the USA, against the conditions in Persia at that time under the Shah regime and for the Algerian War of Liberation.

The thousands of students who publicly demonstrated in the streets and squares in the 1960s were mostly economically privileged and articulate, and dedicated. They were by no means the majority of their generation, but they set the tone. The student protest movements differed greatly from country to country – despite the noticeable global networking and cross-border central ideas. They eventually went down in contemporary history as the so-called “68ers” (Kraushaar 2018/19).

In some respects, arguments were taken from Marxism, psychoanalysis, or the theory of capitalism and imperialism. For this reason, the protest movement was later called the “New Left” to distinguish it from social democratic or socialist parties and from communism, although WUS members and its supporters, who personally tended to take a liberal-conservative line, also supported this “university revolution”.
Due to its manifold co-operation with other student associations, WUS was involved already in the political and certainly also diverse developments at the universities and the “68er movement” found understanding and resonance in large parts of international WUS: “They are funded in the desire for the pursuit of truth, the promotion of development and the purchase of peace” (see WUS in Action, XIX, No. 2, 1969). All these underlying views and beliefs were largely in line with international WUS’s very own ideas and goals, especially because national and racial prejudices of the previous generation of students were also denounced.

WUS activity at its height: Late 1960s- early1990s

Not only were WUS members involved in the challenges and changes to the universities and also the political developments from the late 1960s, it was also a time when the number of WUS committees was expanding, and their activities diversifying. Assistance to refugees became once more a major issue, especially following the Chilean coup in 1973 but extending to other countries in Latin America and Africa. In Africa there was very significant support, largely with monies from government development agencies, for black students in Southern Africa. And in Asia WUS projects included ongoing assistance for students, and growing student involvement in community development.  

WUS Refugee Scholarships in the 1970s and 1980s

As recounted in the foregoing, refugee and displaced student programs were a central component of WUS’s work in the first fifty years in Europe and became an important part of its work in Africa and Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s. The growing concern with Latin America during this period made WUS into a truly global organisation, rather than a European one with a strong southern African focus.  

WUS National Committees in the UK and France assisted many thousands of Chilean refugee students and their families in escaping from the persecution of the Pinochet regime in Chile after the violent coup in 1973. They and other committees went on to fund major refugee scholarship programs for Ugandan, Ethiopian, Cambodian, Vietnamese, South African and Zimbabwean refugee students in Europe in a practical response to new dictatorial regimes assisting those fleeing persecution and those who were left stranded in Europe. The French and the UK WUS committees then succeeded in persuading their governments to include refugees within mainstream programs and, alongside WUS Germany and Denmark, concentrated on offering advice and help with reception, language training, counselling, as well as creating networks for the students and finding employment for them. Danish, German and UK WUS committees made a major feature of sophisticated returns projects to Chile.

These refugee programs were motivated by solidarity, while helping victims to become self-reliant in, and through, education and training, preparing the manpower for the development of new democracies when their countries were liberated again. Some national committees, including Canada and UK, were able to mobilise students, academics and universities to take an ownership of refugee scholarship programs not only with fundraising but also offering solidarity and support with integrating refugees into the universities. 

WUS Internationally was able to take a complementary role with a wider perspective, having access to international funding. In the 1970s WUS offered hundreds of scholarships to Chilean refugees and victims of repression in Argentina and Bolivia to study in Latin America, while in the 1980s it took over many of the refugee scholarship programs from the International United Educationists Fraternity (IUEF), particularly for Columbian, Nicaraguan, Salvadorian and Guatemalan refugees in Costa Rica.

Following the Soweto uprising in 1976 many students fled from South Africa to neighbouring countries. WUS supported young refugees with scholarships, counselling and access to academic institutions in southern and west African countries.  Once again WUS took over the administration of many of the substantial IUEF scholarship programs in Africa. With the independence of Zimbabwe and in due course of South Africa and Namibia, WUS provided assistance with the return of refugees and the training of government staff.

WUS In Southern Africa 1970-90

It is difficult to overstate the practical support that WUS gave to those combatting Apartheid in South Africa and Namibia in the 1970s and 1980s. Similarly, WUS played a significant role in tackling racial discrimination in the Rhodesian education system before Zimbabwe gained its independence in 1980. WUS found local partners and then raised funds and supported many pioneering educational programs. WUS also offered practical international solidarity through contacts with its own committees worldwide, assisted in creating new networks and sharing experiences of and for often isolated and threatened local partners.

WUS did not have a committee in South Africa preferring to work through dynamic existing organisations and newly emerging movements. Its work began in the 1960s inter alia with the South African Committee of Higher Education (SACHED). Initially it provided bursaries for black students to study by correspondence courses at London University. Later SACHED abandoned the UK link and set up Turret Correspondence College providing support for black students through the University of South Africa. In the mid-seventies SACHED set up People’s College, a supplement to Weekend World, a newspaper with a readership of 3 million, which included literacy, post literacy and a secondary school catch up program following student rebellions and school closures in 1976. The work was so successful that the Apartheid regime banned The World in 1977 and in 1978 served banning orders on David Adler, the SACHED Director, and Clive Nettleton who ran the newspaper project.

In the 1970s and 1980s WUS’s reputation enabled it to develop a wider range of partners and projects. A key organisation was the South African Students Organisation (SASO) and the Black Consciousness Movement whose Black Community Programmes developed leadership training programs and social action, community development and literacy campaigns. It was led by Steve Biko, before he was murdered in prison in 1977. Other organisations included the Zimele Trust that supported victims of political oppression and their families. Much of WUS funding went to literacy and educational work in slum areas.

In Namibia WUS once again supported correspondence courses and tutorial centres as a way of overcoming the segregation of Apartheid.

WUS was able to establish a National Committee in Rhodesia in the 1970s. They developed a bursary scheme in 75 secondary schools that funded as many as 1300 impoverished students each year. A significant number of poor black students were supported through technical colleges. The largest financial program for black students was at the University of Rhodesia itself. By the time of independence in 1980, 942 students were being supported by WUS. 

Furthermore, WUS was able to provide support and funding for hundreds of refugee students from Southern Africa in the UK, and North America, eventually supporting their return to an independent Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa.

In the 1980s, WUS’s programming in South Africa grew when its work in Zimbabwe was completed and when IUEF collapsed following the infiltration of its work by a South African Police agent.  Scandinavian donors, who were the core supporters of the Southern Africa programs invited WUS to take over many of the IUEF scholarship programs for South African and Namibian as well as other African refugees, which dominated much of WUS’s international funding during these decades.

WUS was present in South Asia from the 1950s. The 1960s and 1970s saw a steady increase and extension to South-East Asia, East Asia and the Pacific. At first activity consisted of the provision of material assistance to students, from textbooks and cafeterias to hostels, health clinics and TB sanitaria. Following regional workshops on co-operation initiated by WUS India, a WUS International grant of $50,000 enabled interest-free loan funding for campus projects, thus protecting capital for new projects. And help-to-self-help student-run projects were developed, especially for campus canteens.

WUS in Asia and the Pacific, 1960s-1980s

In a new initiative in the 1960s WUS India raised funds for a student hostel in neighbouring Nepal, and a large Centre at Madras University, with a grant from the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), opening in time to host the 1970 International General Assembly. Following a change in WUSI direction, WUS Asian committees began to turn outwards and establish programs of student social action, notably in India, The Philippines (Project LINA), Indonesia (Project Manisrenggo) and Sri Lanka (workers’ education, and English teacher training for refugee Namibian women).

In the region during the 1970s WUS Australia undertook development education and anti-apartheid activities and finally closed in the mid 1970s. Some Asian committees became self-sufficient, and student welfare projects continued to give way to community development initiatives. By the 1980s Bangladesh WUS became involved in such schemes, while WUS in Papua New Guinea developed a “barefoot lawyers” project involving senior law students.

The Middle East came under the Asia/Pacific WUSI brief. WUSC held its 1976 International Seminar in Egypt and co-operated with the Canadian International Develomeny Agency (CIDA) in Tunisia during this period. Its 1977 seminar was in China, a major initiative which opened the way for a WUSC China Program based in Beijing, and its office there was an NGO first. Selected students came to Canada for tailor-made work-study programs.

Into the 1980s, issue-raising and training continued with 1985 regional workshops on “Academic Solidarity and Co-operation”, “Project Planning and Management” (both held in The Philippines), and “Women in Education” (1988) and “Education for All: Human Rights and Development” (1990), both held in Thailand. And there were student committees in Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia and The Maldives. Additionally, delegates from Turkey and Pakistan attended the 1984 Nantes General Assembly.

With repressive political changes in the 1980s, WUS Philippines was limited to work in advocacy for human rights while WUS Sri Lanka was involved in protection of student activists. In post-war Vietnam, WUS student scholarships were introduced and Palestinian students were also supported by WUS committees from the global North.

The loss of the Geneva office and staff was no doubt a factor in the subsequent shriveling of WUS in the region. Some small self-supporting groups still exist in several Asian locations today.                    

Lima and the aftermath

A milestone in the work of WUS was the “Lima Declaration on Academic Freedom and Autonomy for Tertiary Educational Institutions” in 1988 (“Every human being has the right to education” – see references) as well as the New Delhi Declaration for a Holistic Vision of Education for All in 1991. In this context, WUS also always attached importance to the promotion of women in the whole society and to the scientific research of gender equality and the elimination of any discrimination. To this end, the Lima Conference adopted, without dissenting votes, a “WUS Action Plan for Women” (see Report of the Women’s Commission). Earlier, at the 1983/84 General Assembly in Nantes, WUS itself had decided to appoint more women to decision-making positions in its organisation.


To summarise: In the course of its development, WUS had concentrated its operational goals – apart from the original special “fundraising” for material aid – on the following areas, which in principle are still valid today, although naturally the emphases are interpreted differently in the individual national committees, also strengthened according to the respective acute need:

  • The “Education and Refugee Programs” provide educational opportunities for victims of discrimination and persecution and consist largely of scholarships for African, Asian, and Latin American refugees, displaced persons, and returnees.
  • The “Human Rights in Education Program” aims to promote the right to education, advocates fpr academic freedom and the autonomy of universities, and the human rights of academic communities.
  • The “Program on Academic Co-operation” aims at the role of the Universities in their respective societies, contributes to the promotion of a critical scientific culture to bring about social change, as well as academic co-operation between universities and NGOs working in areas of social education.
  • The “University and Education Program for All” and the “Education and Women’s Program” strive to analyse the inadequacies and lack of promotion of education for all and aims to encourage the academic community to engage in appropriate activities, also in co-operation with other social groups.

WUS activities were financed through fundraising, especially in the university sector by students and professors. For large-scale projects, such as workshops, student medical and health conferences and projects, refugee programs, and the establishment of centres for students at Third World universities, WUS International received funds directly to the Geneva headquarters or through the national committees from public development aid organisations in Canada, Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden, etc., from private sponsors in the business community, and from international organisations such as UNESCO (for projects, see 50 Years – WUS in ACTON, p. 36ff). This kind of fundraising was accompanied by journalistic reports, journals and magazines, such as WUS in Action and WUS News, a monthly news bulletin, plus publications on specific topics from the field of WUS activity.

At its height, there were 59 independent WUS committees or services in the following countries:

Argentina Australia Bangladesh Bolivia Brazil Chile Costa Rica Denmark Dominican Republic Ecuador El Salvador Eritrea France Germany Guatemala Haiti Honduras Hong KongIndia Indonesia Canada Kenya Colombia Namibia Netherlands, The Nepal Nicaragua Nigeria Austria Head Office Graz Prishtina Office, Kosovo Sarajevo Office, Bosnia  and Herzegovina Pakistan Palestine Panama ParaguayPhilippines Puerto Rico Russian Federation Rwanda Zambia South Africa Sri Lanka Swaziland Sweden Tanzania Thailand United Kingdom USA Venezuela Vietnam Zimbabwe  

The winds of change for WUS International

WUS has continued its activities with a strong basis in human rights since the Lima Declaration. In 1991 the International General Assembly was held in New Delhi, India, together with a conference on “Education for All” while the Centenary conference has chosen as its theme “The Right to Quality Education”. And the struggle for, and maintenance of human rights remains the basis for the programs of the continuing national WUS committees, perhaps most strikingly demonstrated in the work of WUS Austria in the Balkans Wars and their aftermath following the break-up of Yugoslavia, but essentially in all the ongoing programs. However, those continuing national committees are now a mere handful. There may be others, as in one university in Sri Lanka and until 1998 in Hong Kong or as with the UK and Denmark, through a new organisation which has grown out of WUS. But for over 20 years there has been no central organisation consequently each national committee is responsible for its own programs.

One contribution in this collection from former Associate Secretary Roger Eggleston suggests that the seeds for the crises of the 1990s began as far back as 1972 when the General Assembly changed the Statutes so that the composition of the Assembly itself consisted of a maximum of 5 national committee representatives plus the executive, which did not have a vote, replacing the former sponsoring organisations. The executive, voted by the assembly, included four regional representatives, the regions being Africa, Asia and Australasia (later the Pacific), Europe and North America, and Latin America. This change gave rise to strong regional sentiments evident in particular in the activities at General Assemblies, from determining the Programme of Action to voting for the General Secretary and Executive Committee members.

The recognition of what group was and was not a national committee became a controversial issue at General Assemblies. Regional concerns came more and more to the fore, as did rivalries and a suspicion of Eurocentrism which saw two Geneva staff members leave before their contracts expired. Nevertheless, a major thread through the 100 years of WUS remains: the connection of those who work for universal education, academic solidarity and freedom, administrative participation by all members of the academy, university autonomy, human rights and sustainability (quoted from Manfred Nowak’s contribution).     

Move forward 20 years, and another major change was taking place. National committees and their subsidiaries continued fund-raising activities particularly for programs within their country, though Laksiri Fernando, former Associate Secretary for Asia and the Pacific, suggests in his contribution in this volume that some of the Asian programs had become more like enterprises rather than exemplifying the values of a movement. And internationally, the secretariat had become heavily reliant on funding from major institutional donors where there were no WUS Committees (e.g. Sweden, Norway and Switzerland). In addition, the large programs of WUS Germany and WUS UK were funded domestically and could only provide limited support for the finances of the international secretariat. There were two major areas of action: South Africa and Namibia (SAN) in strongly politicised programs of support against apartheid, and for academic refugees from conflict areas in Central America. In the 1980s there were large flows of Nordic government funding via WUS following the demise of IUEF. By the mid-1990s, the fall of apartheid, Namibian independence and a peace process leading to the return of Central American refugees meant the end of funding for the former campaigns.             

Funding crises

It was during the second term of Secretary-General Nigel Hartley, from the UK, that these issues became urgent. He was directed to reduce the staffing in the Geneva office (it fell from 20 to 10 by 1994) and to create strong regional offices that would be largely responsible for running programs. Nigel established offices in Chile, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. Sadly, by 1994, he had become seriously ill. The next Assembly after New Delhi, to be held in Cape Town in 1994, was cancelled due to financial problems at the last minute. Then tragically, Nigel  died in February 1995 and the international President, Caleb Fundanga, appointed Ximena Erazo, then Deputy General Secretary, to take over Nigel’s role. Although directed to move to Geneva, she refused, rather operating from the regional office in Santiago de Chile. She in turn appointed Frederiek de Vlaming, former WUS Human Rights Officer, as Deputy General Secretary for day-to-day affairs at the Geneva secretariat. 

The financial situation continued to decline. WUS International had been paying for the remaining secretariat staff by bank borrowing, as Caleb explains, collateralised by the only asset, the villa. European and North American Committees held an emergency meeting in Geneva in August 1995. This was opposed by the Secretary General in Chile, who had not attended the meeting, but nevertheless Caleb informed all WUS committees that he had approved the plan until 20 November 1995 and established a Board of Trustees of Friends of WUS to try to find a financial solution. This failed, Ximena Erazo gave notice to the remining Geneva staff in December 1995 and resigned from her position on 1 June 1995. The Geneva office closed on 31 May 1996. In October of that year the villa was sold but the SF700,000 the sale raised was insufficient to prevent WUS International becoming bankrupt.

A skeleton staff was maintained in Copenhagen after the Geneva office closed, while awaiting the next General Assembly. The Human Rights Programme moved to the Amsterdam WUS office. It was established as a Foundation under Dutch law and from May 1996 became a de facto secretariat for WUS International as well as a regional office for Europe. The human rights program was financed by CIDA and the Municipality of Amsterdam and continued until 30 April 2000, when it was forced to close through lack of funding. As Caleb Fundaga points out in his contribution to this volume, a critical failure was that WUS did not develop new programs that could generate funding that would sustain the international network.    

A possible future for WUS International

Kambiz Ghawami of WUS Germany instigated a meeting in Wiesbaden in December 1997 to discuss the future of WUS International. A comprehensive report on the state of affairs and recent developments was presented by Caleb Fundanga, together with a possible future for WUS International. The meeting was attended by Wolfgang Benedek (WUS Austria), Marc Dolgin (WUS Canada), Aleksander Glogowski (WUS France), Issda Salim (WUS Palestine), Caroline Nursey (WUS UK), Caleb Fundanga (WUS International) and Leo van der Vlist, Wieke Wagaenaar and Miriam Frank of the Amsterdam Office.

No General Assembly had been held since New Delhi in 1991 and the term for the international executive committee had officially expired in 1994, though in the absence of a new election they were technically still in office. It is not clear from the available source material whether, with the closure of the WUS office, WUS International is legally considered to have been dissolved as an Association under Swiss civil law. Only a General Assembly can dissolve a legal society or association. It is also unclear whether WUS International was registered with the Geneva Financial Canton Administration or in the Commercial Register, questions which may be answered once the records now held in the archive of Carleton University in Canada are digitalised and become available for scrutiny.

In an attempt to maintain an ongoing international presence, Caleb was able through contacts to meet Sheikh Qasimi, the ruler of the United Arab State of Sharjah. The Sheikh funded a general assembly for WUS in 1998, at which amendments to the Statute of the WUS Board were made. A Management Board of 5 members was adopted to replace the General Assembly and Executive Committee, chaired by Leonard Connolly from WUS Canada, with Gurdip Singh Randhawa (WUS India), Inge Friedrich (WUS Germany), Caleb Fundanga (WUS Lesotho) and Raquel Leal (WUS Argentina). Subsequently, for several reasons expected funding from Sharjah was not forthcoming, and the Amsterdam office had to close on 30 April 2000.

The status of WUS International needs to be clarified and questions remain concerning the handling of the financial crises and financial decision-making in the 1990s. It is clear that the radically changing political landscape led to fundamental changes to access to funds from major outside sources and WUS was far too slow to adapt its activities in order to continue funding the international operation. Without that, a number of committees were not able to sustain activity and connections were lost. However, as we look back on the past 100years, WUS has not only played a leading role in the fight for the right to education for all, and the means to achieve it, but in addition to the vibrant ongoing national committees, there are voices suggesting it is time for a new WUS to arise.       


Appendix 1: A history of eminent supporters

The mantra of World University Service (WUS) has always been co-operation with other university or university-related organisations or educational institutions. These collaborations are intended to ensure that there is no competition or duplication of effort in both fundraising and material assistance and project implementation, thus achieving the highest possible effectiveness of activities for students.

This inevitably meant that WUS, through its activities, developed relationships with important personalities of political, social and economic life worldwide, who promoted the work of WUS or whom WUS itself promoted before they made political or economic careers. Among the numerous important personalities who were members of WUS or with whom WUS co-operated and whose influential connections served the work of WUS, only a few are briefly presented here.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is the most prominent WUS scholar. He was the first president of South Africa elected by parliament in 1994 after the abolition of apartheid and the resulting opportunity for all South Africans to vote in democratic elections. Since the late 1960s, and increasingly in the years since, WUS has been one of the organisations that publicly supported liberation movements in South Africa through scholarship programs and continuing education through distance learning. In the case of Nelson Mandela, this was additionally done through financial assistance in his establishment of a university teaching facility with other detainees on Robben Island prison.

Phumzile Miambo-Ngcuka was head of the WUS office opened in Cape Town in 1991, which promoted the social reintegration of former political prisoners and returnees from exile in South Africa. She served as South Africa’s deputy president from 2005 to 2008 and has been on the board of UN Women since 2013.

Among the most politically significant personalities with ties to the WUS and its sponsors are former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre E. Trudeau and Norwegian Thorwald Stoltenberg. Both have held important leadership positions within the UN. The latter, for example, served as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. While still a student in Vienna, he was a member of the WUS committee there, and in 1956 he personally rescued Hungarian refugee students.

Another extraordinary and eminent person who has provided the opening words for this book is Ricardo Lagos. He is a lifelong human rights activist, who courageously challenged the Pinochet dictatorship, and from 2000-6 was the elected social democrat President of Chile. During his exile in the 1970s he worked with the UN. In 1974-5 he was involved with WUS UK in the extremely difficult task of helping people escape the Pinochet regime, and from 1978 onwards, assisted the WUS UK return program. He subsequently supported the work of WUS Denmark and Germany.

Olof Palme, a Social Democratic Swedish politician and twice Prime Minister of Sweden (1969-1976, 1982-1986), was also active in WUS during his political career. In addition to his commitment to political international understanding and military disarmament, he was vehemently committed to the concerns of the then so-called “Third World”.

Also included is Chilean Michelle Bachelet, who studied medicine in Leipzig and Berlin after fleeing dictator Pinochet’s Chile in 1975. She was appointed by the UN General Assembly as its new Commissioner for Human Rights in August 2018. She had already successfully held significant positions. For example, she was president of the UN Organization for the Equality of Women. Before becoming Chile’s first woman president in 2006, when she was elected for two constitutional terms – from 2006 to 2010 and from 2014 to 2018 – she was minister of health and later defence, and in both posts, she pushed through far-reaching reforms that were notable for Chile.

The work of WUS and its predecessor organisations received the public support of many more important personalities from politics, society, churches and universities. To name just a few others: Marie S. Curie, Friedrich Ebert, Albert Einstein, Rudolf Eucken, Sigmund Freud, Hughes and Herbert C. Hoover, John M. Keynes, Fridtjof Nansen, Walther Rathenau, Hugo Stinnes, Ernst Troeltsch, Woodrow Wilson and many more. Alas, to list all the pioneering and prominent political and social figures, either members of or otherwise associated with WUS would go beyond the scope of this article.




Berggren, Henrik (2017). Olof Palme – Wonderful days lie before us – The Biography. Stockholm: Btb.

Brewis, Georgina (2014). A Social History of Student Volunteering – Britain and Beyond, 1880 – 1980. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Rouse, Ruth (1925). Rebuilding Europe. The Student Chapter in Post-War Reconstruction. London: S.C.M.

Rouse, Ruth (1948). The World’s Student Christian Federation. London: S.C.M. Press Ltd.

Sarupria, Shantilal (1970). 50 Years. In Eggleston, Roger, World University Service Geneva, WUS in ACTION, Vol. XX, p.32.

Selles, Johannes M. (2011). The World Student Christian Federation 1895-1925, Motives, Methods and Influential Women. Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications.

Articles in chronological order of appearance

Dr. Redlich, Universität Wien. (Februar 1920). Handgeschriebenes Schreiben über die Lage und die Hilfsmaßnahmen. [Handwritten notes on the situation and emergency measures]

Letter to Miss Agnes Murray from February 1920, Copy 28. Febr. 1921 and 3. Dec. 1978. In: Donald Grant Writings. Stanford University in California: Hoover Institution Archives, Box 1, Folder 2.

Grant, Donald (1922). Report on Student Relief Work in Austria.

Grant, Donald (1922/23). Report on causes of sick, undernourished and very poor students in Austria.

Akademischer Senat der Universität Wien (1922). Studentenschaft der Universität Wien, Ehrenmedaille an Dr. Donald Grant und D. A. Smith, Ehrenzeichen an G. A. Murray und Lady M. Murray.[The student body of Vienna University, medal of honour for Dr Donald Grant and D.A. Smith, token  of honour for G.A. Murray and Lady M. Murray]

Grant, Donald (1923). The European Student Relief of the World´s Student Christian Federation, Work in September 1920 – April 1923. Wien.

European Student Relief (1923). Berichte über die Konferenz in Parad/Ungarn. [Report of the conference in Parad, Hungary]

International Student Services (1950). Report on ISS and World Student Relief (with annual data 1920 – 1950).

World University Service International. Annual Report 1953/54.

World University Service International. Program of Action 1961-62.

World University Service International (1969). WUS in ACTION XIX, Nr. 1 und 2. Retrospect 68.

Grant, Donald (1972). How “World University Service” began. (Manuscript)

Visser´t Hooft, Willem A. (1972). Die Welt war meine Gemeinde. München, Zürich: Piper&Co. [The world was my community]

World University Service International (1982). Special WUS NEWS on Women.

                                                     (1988). WUS Action Plan for Women.

                                                     (1988). Empower Women through Education.

World University Service International (1986). Report of the Commission on Academic Solidarity and Cooperation to the 67th WUS General Assembly in Madrid, September 1986.

WUS (UK). Annual Report 1986/87. (on Donald Grant‘s WUS activities)

World University Service International (1988). The Lima Declaration on Academic Freedom and Autonomy of Institutions of Higher Education. Lima, 6.-10. Sept. 1988.

Laksiri, Fernando (1988). In Defence of Academic Freedom: An Introduction to the Lima Declaration.

Hartley, Benjamin (1988). Saving Students: European Student Relief in the Aftermath of World War I.

Wiesbadener Tageblatt (1995). Auch Nelson Mandela schätzt die WUS-Arbeit. [Nelson Mandela also values the work of WUS]

Fundanga, Caleb M. (1997). Report to the World University Service Meeting in Wiesbaden, Germany 6th to 7th December 1997.

Schmidt, Bettina (2013). Nachruf auf Nelson R. Mandela. [Obituary for Nelson R. Mandela]

World University Service Deutsches Komitee (2018). WUS-Komitees weltweit. [WUS committees wordwide]

Kraushaar, Wolfgang (2018). Die 68er-Bewegung international – Eine illustrierte Chronik 1960-1969. Band I-IV, Stuttgart 2018. [The 1968 international movement – an illustrated chronicle 1960-1969, volumes I-!V]

Bachelet, Michelle (2018/19). „Man soll an der Vision einer besseren Welt für alle arbeiten­“ – ein Portrait [One should work for the vision of better world for everyone“. A Portrait]

Ritchie, Cyril (2019). WUS 100 Years. (E-Mail 12.3.2019 zur Auflösung des WUS International) [email on the dissolution of WUS International]

Laksiri, Fernando (2020). WUS Vienna Conference on the Universal Human Right to Quality Education for all.

Author profile
Wolfgang Nies

Wolfgang Nies joined WUS in 1960 when a student in Heidelberg as a staff member of the local committee there. At the General Assembly in Heidelberg in 1961 he was elected to the Executive Board of the German Committee of WUS, where he served until the General Assembly in Hamburg in 1964. He then moved to the main committee, which at that time was to deal with longer-term aspects of the work and tasks of WUS. Also, during his professional activity as a banker (Deutsche Bank AG, Helaba Luxembourg and Helaba Dublin as Managing Director), he remained connected to WUS as a personal member and took over the task of the internal cash audit of the association for some time.