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UK government to help fund Ukraine university twinning scheme

The British government yesterday announced it would provide £190,000 in funding for a program that matches UK universities with Ukrainian ones to support students and academics affected by the war. 

Some 71 UK institutions have been paired with counterparts in Ukraine through the twinning scheme launched in April. Photo: Unsplash.

71 UK institutions have already been paired with a Ukrainian counterpart through the scheme launched in April

A total of 71 UK institutions have already been paired with Ukrainian counterparts through the scheme launched in April, including the University of Liverpool, Wrexham Glyndwr University and the University of Glasgow. 

A further 61 UK universities are looking to partner with Ukrainian institutions, with eight of these “nearing formal agreement” according to Universities UK, which runs the program alongside Cormack Consultancy Group. 

“Both sides are seeking to build lasting ties of cooperation and cultural exchange”

Responding to the government’s announcement, Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK International said the organisation was “delighted that the government is putting its weight behind this extraordinary scheme”.

Stern said that the partnerships were helping Ukrainian universities in a number of ways including “to teach remotely, hosting their staff and students on UK campuses, providing library access and equipment, and supporting the continuation of Ukrainian research activity”.

Under the agreement, universities will partner with their Ukrainian counterparts for a minimum of five years. 

“While short-term assistance is crucial, both sides are seeking to build lasting ties of cooperation and cultural exchange that will outlast the war and contribute to the rebuilding of the Ukrainian education system when the war is over,” said Janet Beer, vice-chancellor of the University of Liverpool.

The funding was part of a wider package of support from the British government for Ukraine’s science, technology and research sectors, including the allocation of an additional £9.8 million to the “Researchers at Risk” program, which launched in March to support Ukrainian academics to continue their work in the UK. 

The scheme will support over 130 Ukrainian academics to come to the UK and receive a salary, and cover the costs of research work and living for up to two years.  

The government said the extra funding “will give Ukraine’s best scientists and tech entrepreneurs the help they need to rebuild their country”.

Hetan Shah, chief executive of the British Academy, one of the organisations operating the program, said that demand had “been high” and that there is “a real need to support researchers from Ukraine to find safety for themselves and their families and continue their work”. 

Prime minister Boris Johnson also encouraged Russian scientists and researchers “who no longer feel safe in Russia” and who are “looking upon Putin’s violence in dismay” to apply to come to the UK. 

“We commend the program’s stated wish to ‘open the scheme more widely when possible'”

“You should feel free to apply to come to the UK and work in a country that values openness, freedom and the pursuit of knowledge,” Johnson said. 

Sinead O’Gorman, director of Scholars at Risk Europe, which works to protect threatened scholars and promote academic freedom, commented that “two elements of the UK’s response to the crisis facing the higher education sector in Ukraine are particularly commendable”.

“While the Researchers at Risk program prioritises supporting Ukrainian researchers, we commend the program’s stated wish to ‘open the scheme more widely when possible,’ and hope other schemes will similarly broaden support to researchers from other countries,” O’Gorman said.

“Second, the twinning program, which aims to build sustainable partnerships between UK and Ukrainian institutions, is an effective way to simultaneously respond to immediate needs and support the Ukrainian higher education sector long-term.”

Meanwhile, individual organisations and institutions in the UK have set up their own schemes to support Ukrainian academics, researchers and students. 

Cambridge University said on June 27 that it would support at least 30 students and academics displaced by the war through fully-funded residential placements, clinical placements for medical students, and help for academics working in Ukraine.

Foreign Exchange company XTX Markets also announced on Monday its new £15m “Academic Sanctuaries Fund” which will support at-risk students and academics from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus over the next three years. 

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