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“My city is destroyed”: sector rallies behind Ukraine but more support needed

With the outpouring of support for Ukraine from the international education sector, key stakeholders are also looking at how to best support students affected by the situation. But as colleagues in Ukraine take up arms to repel Russian forces, more support is needed, they say.

Groups such as Guild of European Research Intensive Universities, EUTOPIA European University Alliance, EAIE and NAFSA have condemned the Russian government's invasion of Ukraine. Photo: pexels

"They are with them, so we just say that they are really like heroes here in Kharkiv, even if they are very much scared"

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has been labelled a “shameful act of aggression” by NAFSA CEO Esther Brimmer in the US, while EAIE in Europe “stands in solidarity with Ukraine” and CBIE in Canada reminded that its 140+ members “unequivocally supports [Ukraine’s] right to live in peace and to freely choose their future within their own independent and indivisible country”.

In a joint statement, Global Student Forum, European Student Union and the Ukrainian Association of Students expressed their “solidarity with the Ukrainian people and all the educators and learners in the country as well as in the neighbouring territories that suffer from yet another Russian war of aggression”.

Universities UK has described the Russian government’s decision to invade Ukraine “appalling”.

However, chairman of Cormack Consultancy Group, Charles Cormack, said that academics at its partner universities across Ukraine have joined defence forces and are now fighting to repel Russian forces.

“Ukrainian universities are very keen to get letters of support from UK universities”

The consultancy, originally created with a focus on Central and Eastern Europe, has been trying to get supplies such as helmets, night-vision goggles and other equipment to the Romanian border and on to areas in Ukraine where they are needed.

He urged institutions – particularly in the UK – to send letters of support to Ukrainian institutions.

“Ukrainian universities are very keen to get letters of support from UK universities, they are posting them on their website and social media to show staff and students that the outside world is supporting them,” he detailed.

While some universities have been open to sharing support for Ukrainian institutions they have previously partnered with, more general statements of support for all higher educators would be welcome, Cormack noted, especially when institutions in Ukraine have been hit by shelling.

One UK institution that has said it will review all its links to Russian State institutions with a view to terminating contracts where possible is the University of Warwick.

“Universities, by their very nature, are international and that has consequences: when all that is important is put at risk, we must speak out,” said vice chancellor and president Stuart Croft. “Today, that means we must Stand with Ukraine.”

As well as writing to the Russian ambassador to the UK protesting the invasion, the university is working with its partners and allies throughout Europe via the Guild of European Research Intensive Universities, signing shared statements condemning Russia’s actions and urging political leaders to enable universities to support Ukrainian students and staff on our campuses.

“To be clear: I would ask all in our community to stand with Ukraine in these terrible times,” he said. “And, with those Russians including our own students who are not responsible for this war, many of whom bravely speak out against it – thousands of whom have been arrested by the Russian State for the crime of peaceful protest.”

The Guild statement urges “political leaders to support us in doing whatever we can to extend this right to Ukrainian faculty and staff”.

The EUTOPIA European University Alliance, of which Warwick is a member with others such as Romania’s Babes-Bolyai University, Belgium’s Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Italy’s University of Venice, Germany’s Technische Universität Dresden and more, said “if good and humanity are to prevail within and among nations, more efforts from each of us are required”.

“EUTOPIA is engaged in supporting Ukrainian students and staff to the best of our abilities. EUTOPIA also expresses its support to the academic communities in Russia who speak out against this violence,” the group added.

Universities in Ukraine’s neighbouring countries of Romania, Czech Republic, Poland and the Baltics are preparing to absorb extra students, and are “likely to need help” doing so, Cormack added.

Masaryk University in the Czech Republic is expected to take some 500 refugee students, while Lithuanian institutions are coordinating a plan to enrol more displaced students, he said.

Along with MasarykSMK University of Applied Social Sciences in Lithuania and Charles Darwin University in Australia have announced special scholarships for Ukrainian students.

Following calls to extend Temporary Protected Status to Ukrainian students in the US, NAFSA has also joined American Council on Education to urge Departments of State and Homeland Security to “provide as much flexibility and support as possible for Ukrainian students and scholars currently in the US, and for students and scholars seeking to leave Ukraine during the current crisis”.

IIE has begun to accept nominations from IIENetwork members for international students impacted by the crisis in Ukraine.

Other providers such as International Diagnostic and Admissions Test is making the test free to any school taking in displaced Ukrainian school students.

The fully-comprehensive assessment – usually priced at US$220-$250 per student – can be used to support these new students as they transition to a new school, CEO Heidi Reid said.

“This is really the least we can do to help schools to help these students,” she told The PIE. “I just wanted to offer something and this is what we have to offer.”

Speaking with The PIE from Sambir in western Ukraine, head of the International Relations Office at Kharkiv National Medical University Anzhela Stashchak said that citizens “just want to be the Ukrainian nation, and that’s all”.

“I got the pictures of my own street, and it’s destroyed and the city centre is destroyed and, you know, lots of people losing their homes… my city is destroyed.”

Earlier on March 1, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs confirmed the death of an Indian student in Kharkiv. “It’s even not his war,” Stashchak said. “He was stuck here and then got killed by Russian soldiers.”

She also described the situation with women from the prenatal centre in the city giving birth in bomb shelters and how those remaining there are suffering without water and food.

KNMU enrols 10,000 students, 5,000 of whom are international, she continued. While some were evacuated before the situation escalated, not all left.

“It’s just words, you know, but it means a lot for us”

“We are very proud of our students. Actually, they are in the shelters, in the subway stations, they are giving the help and support to the citizens of our city. They are with them, so we just say that they are really like heroes here in Kharkiv, even if they are very much scared,” she said.

Stashchak detailed that KNMU has around 15 or 20 letters of support.

“I know a lot about the support of my colleagues from Germany, Austria, from Poland, from Australia and from US,” she said. “I am not sure about the state level support of the UK towards Ukraine, but my dear colleagues from Cormack Consultancy Group, from the Edge Hill University, from the University of Central Lancashire, from the Glyndwr University and many more were very supportive and doing a lot – donating to the army, sending letters of support,” she added.

“It’s just words, you know, but it means a lot for us,” she told The PIE. “It means that we have support of our partners, that they are understanding what’s going on. You know?”

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One Response to “My city is destroyed”: sector rallies behind Ukraine but more support needed

  1. A Ghanaian student in Ukraine studying Bsc Computer Engineering and suppose to graduate in June 2022 but due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine the Universities are closed. He wants to know if he can transfer his study to your school.

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