Education community supports fleeing Ukrainian students

Published 04/03/2022

Universities and educational institutions are rallying together to support Ukrainian refugees and to ensure that students fleeing the country can continue their education.

Universities in the countries bordering Ukraine have been quick to offer help to students and academics leaving as a result of the Russian invasion.

Budapest University of Technology, which has partner universities in Ukraine’s Kyiv, Kharkiv, Uzhhorod and Dnipro, said it “welcomes the partner universities’ students” and offers “partial transfer, credit recognition and mentoring” to incoming students.

The Slovak University of Technology has also offered the use of its facilities to house “war-torn Ukrainian citizens, including families with children” and that it will “strive to simplify the conditions of admission to study for students from war-affected areas”.

Similarly, the Technical University of Moldova has announced that it will provide accommodation and assistance to refugees fleeing Ukraine.

“Ukraine is home to millions of well educated, talented and hardworking students and academics”

UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, has warned that up to four million people may attempt to flee Ukraine. Over one million people have already left the country since the Russian invasion began on February 24, with approximately 548,000 of them going to Hungary.

“Already hit disproportionately by Covid-19, Ukrainian students face the disruption in their studies, with universities currently closed due to martial law, many male students and faculty taking arms, and women sheltering for safety in western parts of the country or crossing borders to European and other safe countries,” said Oleksandr Shtokvytch, head of Secretariat at the Open Society University Network.

“Opportunities to resume and continue education online, and in person, at other locations, rapid credit recognition response, easy transfer to foreign institutions are necessary. Pastoral care and counselling would be an essential part of support.”

Academic institutions in Western Europe are also offering support to students. The University of Zurich in Switzerland has said it is “open to students and researchers who need to leave Ukraine”, advising them to contact academic network Scholars at Risk.

In the UK, Oxford International Education Group is offering free English language and cultural preparation courses for Ukrainian nationals arriving into the country. The courses will be delivered fully online and can be accessed from mobile phones.

The two courses on offer, English for Culture and English for Business, are designed to help students gain confidence in their use of English.

Speaking about the organisation’s response to the war, Lil Bremermann-Richard, group CEO at OIEG, told the PIE News, “I think right now we need to act with education, with kindness, and with support to foster education and kindness.”

Meanwhile, there are efforts to facilitate coordinated help for students fleeing Ukraine. Scholars at Risk, a network designed to support academic freedom, said it “commends” the organisations in its network offering support and calls for national programmes aimed at students at risk.

The OSUN, which runs a Threatened Scholars Integration Initiative, said it is developing “a number of urgent measures” to support Ukrainian students and academics. Speaking to The PIE, Shtokvytch urged the EU and organisations working in Europe to ease “the student visas, residence and work permit requirements” and to compile and provide “information to Ukrainian students about tuition-free study opportunities in Europe” and “aggregated information on scholarships”.

Uwe Brandenburg, managing partner and founder of the Global Impact Institute, has called for the creation of an app that links fleeing students and academics with institutions offering support. He points out that, as academics currently have to research all individual universities in order to find support, a coordinated program could make this process more efficient and impactful.

The EU is expected to pass a proposal that will give Ukrainian refugees the right to live and work in the EU for up to three years, while the UK has said it will take 200,000 refugees if they are related to British nationals or Ukrainians already settled in the country.

“Ukraine is home to millions of well-educated, talented and hardworking students and academics,” added Shtokvytch, “committed to building a free democratic country with functional and transparent governance, embrace of diversity, rooted in dignity and justice, which have again and again stood up against brutality and manipulation and unequivocally stated their European choice. They can be – and already are – a great revitalising force in the European project.”

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