Leading legal expert named Harvard Chair in Australian Studies

8 June 2016
Visiting Professorship for Ben Saul

The University of Sydney and Harvard University have announced the appointment of Professor Ben Saul to the Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser Chair in Australian Studies for the 2017-2018 academic year.

A profile photo of Professor Ben Saul, who is the latest University of Sydney academic to be appointed to a prestigious visiting professorship at Harvard University.

Headed to Harvard: Professor Ben Saul, the University's Challis Chair of International Law. 

Professor Saul (BA '99, LLB '01) is a practising barrister and leading global legal expert in public international law, with a special focus on fields including terrorism, human rights, armed conflict, and the United Nations. Professor Saul was recently appointed Challis Chair of International Law at the University of Sydney, Australia’s – and one of the world’s – oldest professorships in international law.

“I am honoured that Harvard has invited me to spend a year researching and teaching on terrorism, human rights and international law. Harvard is the world’s pre-eminent university, with a rich tradition of legal scholarship addressing the common global challenges faced by Australia and the United States,” said Professor Saul.

“This is an outstanding opportunity for me to work alongside Harvard’s renowned legal scholars and learn from Harvard’s close links to US government lawmaking.

“It is also a privilege to follow in the footsteps of my Sydney colleague Professor Helen Irving, as the second legal academic to ever hold the Chair in 40 years.”

First legal scholar named Chair since 2006

At Harvard Law School, Professor Saul will research how international law can more effectively suppress terrorism and control excessive counter-terrorism. He will also give a series of public lectures and work on a forthcoming book about terrorist groups’ attitudes to basic humanitarian rules in war, based on field interviews with armed groups in numerous countries.

“It has been a decade since a legal scholar has been appointed to the Harvard Chair of Australian Studies,” said Professor Nicholas Jose, Chair of the Australian Advisory Committee.

“Ben Saul is one of Australia’s most distinguished thinkers in the field of international law. His work engages with some of the most challenging issues of our time. We are delighted to see him appointed to this prestigious position.

“He will bring an Australian perspective to his teaching at Harvard, including a case study of Australia’s counter-terrorism laws, considered in a comparative and global context,” said Professor Jose.

Sydney's Harvard Chair history

The visiting professorship was established at Harvard in 1976, as a result of a gift from the Australian government to mark the bicentennial of the United States. Professor Saul is the sixth University of Sydney academic to hold the annual Chair in its 40-year history.

Previously, the former chancellor of the University of Sydney, the late Dame Leonie Kramer AC DBE, sociologist Professor Raewyn Connell, the now Cambridge-based historian Professor Alison Bashford, and constitutional law expert Professor Helen Irving have held the visiting professorship.

Professor Penny Russell, the University’s Bicentennial Professor of Australian History, is joint Chair for the 2016-2017 academic year, with Professor John Gascoigne, Scientia Professor in the School of Humanities and Languages at the University of New South Wales.