The scheme, organised by Cormack Consultancy Group with the support of Universities UK, aims to support academics, students and university leaders who have been affected by the conflict in Ukraine.
The project is in its early stages, with interest from around 30 UK universities. Conversations have begun surrounding securing long-term collaboration across curriculum content, online resources, research collaboration and staff and student mobility.
The initiative also aims to enable Ukrainian academics to be based at UK universities, allowing them to continue their teaching through online courses while giving them access to IT infrastructure and accommodation.
Charles Cormack, founder and chairman of Cormack Consultancy Group, said that the project allows UK universities to focus their support on a particular partnering institution which “allows them to see they are making a real difference to the lives of academics and students”.
“By supporting them in their mission we are also minimising the risk of brain-drain, with academics and students disappearing into the higher education systems of other countries,” he added.
European organisations have previously called for measures to adapt the Erasmus+ program to support Ukrainian students and academics, but have warned of the “brain-drain risk”.
There is further discussion under the new initiative surrounding English-speaking Ukrainian students being given the opportunity to take UK university modules with credits which their Ukrainian universities will recognise.
“Our universities have a wealth of resources, knowledge and expertise, and we want to find practical ways to support Ukrainian universities now and in the future,” said said Janet Beer, vice-chancellor of the University of Liverpool and chair of UUK’s International Policy Network.
“That starts with understanding their current needs, and this twinning initiative is an excellent way for UK universities to support Ukrainian universities directly, in partnership alongside our higher education counterparts around the world,” she added.
The initiative comes at time when students who were enrolled in Ukrainian universities are desperately calling for help to allow them to continue their studies.
One student, originally from Bangladesh, who has chosen to remain anonymous, left Ukraine where he was studying towards a bachelor of medicine and surgery. He said that worrying about his education has left him feeling “distorted”.
“I’m the eldest son in a family of four so I have to worry about taking care of my family when my dad retires,” he explained.
“I’m the eldest son in a family of four so I have to worry about taking care of my family when my dad retires”
“If Russia still persists and they don’t stop the war then I can safely say there won’t be a future for us and it will cause many students to lose their time and put their future at risk,” he added.
Now living in the United Arab Emirates, the student has been applying to universities in Hungary and elsewhere in Western Europe, but has not received any confirmation of offers.
Some students enrolled in Ukrainian universities are finding it difficult to obtain their academic records, which would allow them to take the next step when accepting offers, making the situation even more problematic.
“Currently my university is not giving out any transcripts at all as the management right now is trying to figure out how to revitalise the study program for us students,” said the student, who was enrolled in his fourth year of studies at Kharkiv National Medical University.
International medical students have previously told The PIE that they risk “losing everything” after fleeing Ukraine.
Despite being grateful for educators who are trying their best with limited resources, the fourth year student feels that the online classes have not been effective. He would rather be provided with the records he needs.
“They are trying to keep online classes and trying to get us up to speed with our courses the best they can but unfortunately they are not providing the documents we need to transfer as they are unable to do so,” he added.
For some students, the hope of continuing their studies has been a salvation since the war uprooted their lives, including for Ukrainian student Kateryna Glubochenko, who is studying at the University of The People.
The American-based online institution has opened its courses for free to Ukrainian students whose universities have closed due to the Russian invasion, and provided 1,000 Ukrainian students with scholarships.
“As for my studies, I will try to continue them while I still have an internet connection. This is the only way for me to calm down a bit and still believe I will survive all this,” Glubochenko said.