Russell Group universities’ response to the invasion of Ukraine

01 April 2022

Scholarships for displaced students, support for academics who have fled their homes, and repurposing accommodation blocks to house refugees are just some of the ways Russell Group universities have responded to the humanitarian crisis caused by the invasion of Ukraine. 

Across the UK our members have responded quickly to the terrible events which have impacted academics, students and our wider communities both directly and indirectly.   

We support measures taken by the Government to stop funding for research programmes linked to the Russian state and institutional collaborators, without unfairly penalising individual students and academics, many of whom are equally as appalled by the Kremlin's actions. Our universities have reviewed any collaborations or other links they may have had with Russia and are taking appropriate action.  

Since the start of the war our members prioritised support for staff and students in the UK or overseas who have been affected, including providing visa advice and helping students return from Ukraine and Russia. Each Russell Group university has hardship funds available for students already here and other wellbeing support for staff and students affected. They will continue to offer this support for as long as it is needed and are now actively exploring what further support they can offer now and over the longer-term. 

Below is an indication of some of the supporting actions our universities are taking as the war in Ukraine continues to unfold: 

Supporting the refugee effort

King’s College London is working with Citizens UK, an umbrella charity with hundreds of member organisations, on a blueprint to bring Ukrainian refugees fleeing war to the UK. King’s and Citizens UK will be helping to bring Ukrainians to Britain as part of the Homes for Ukraine scheme, aiming to bring hundreds of refugees to the UK by Easter. 

The University of Nottingham is also actively looking to repurpose unused buildings to provide Ukrainian refugees with accommodation and support under the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme.   

Bringing displaced academics to safety

Many of our universities are supporting the work of the Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara) to provide a place of safety in the UK for academics displaced by the conflict. Cara has set up a fundraising appeal to support their work bringing academics to safety.  

The University of Manchester is creating an emergency fund of more than £5 million to help provide support initially for students and academics displaced as a result of the war in Ukraine, but also open to those from other countries affected by armed conflict. Funding has been put in place for an initial three-year period with a view to longer-term sustainability via external funding streams. Once established, the new scholarship fund will provide comprehensive annual financial support for 10 undergraduate and 10 postgraduate taught scholarships.  

The University of Sheffield has identified £1 million of funding to be used towards a package of support for those affected. This includes new scholarships for students who are transferring from a Ukrainian university or who are due to begin their studies this autumn, building on existing support schemes for those escaping conflict and persecution, including asylum seeker scholarships.

The University of York and Newcastle University are offering two and three Sanctuary scholarships respectively for students from asylum-seeker and refugee backgrounds to progress to higher level study, consisting of full tuition fee support and a bursary for living expenses for applicants wishing to study at the university.  

Working with Cara, as they did for academics displaced by the conflicts in Afghanistan and Yemen, the University of Edinburgh has agreed funding to host ten at-risk scholars from conflict zones across the world, with a focus on Ukraine as the most pressing issue.  The University of Glasgow has also provided additional funding to Cara and expanded its humanitarian scholarships scheme.

Imperial College London has set up a new scholarship fund, currently totalling close to £250,000, to support students from displaced communities such as asylum seekers and refugees. The donor-backed Sanctuary Scholarship Fund will provide scholarships at both undergraduate and masters level. Imperial is matching donations received for the fund and is aiming to award the first scholarships as early as the 2022/23 academic year. 

Practical support and long-term collaboration with Ukrainian universities

Looking to the future, Russell Group universities are working with European partners on how they can best support Ukrainian universities to get up and running again and develop closer long-term relationships with them to support this.  

For example, the University of Warwick is looking to see what they can do with European partners to provide practical support. Warwick’s Vice Chancellor Stuart Croft will travel to the university’s partners, Babes-Bolyai in Cluj, Romania, in the coming weeks to discuss in person. 

A number of Russell Group universities, including Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Queen’s University Belfast, Warwick and York, have signed up to a Universities UK International initiative to support Ukrainian institutions through a twinning arrangement. The intention is to facilitate long-term collaboration between UK and Ukrainian institutions in areas such as access to curriculum content and online resources, research collaboration, and short-term student/staff mobility.

Supporting students and staff affected by the crisis

All Russell Group universities are reaching out to students andstaff affected by the conflict to offer support, and directing them to support services where appropriate, from visa guidance to counselling.    

At Durham University, all students on their year abroad placements in Russia and Ukraine have returned safely to the UK. The university has reassured all students returning to the UK early from their year abroad studies that there will be no detriment to their learning outcomes or to the accreditation of this part of this course. 

At the University of Liverpool, International Advisers in their International Advice and Guidance (IAG) team are providing practical advice and support to students affected. The team is available to help support all of the university’s international students throughout their studies and beyond, including specialist visa and immigration advice and support with any personal and welfare issues. 

Providing expert academic commentary

More broadly, academics at Russell Group universities such as the London School of Economics, University College London and many others are playing a leading role in providing expert commentary and insight on the conflict in Ukraine, helping to inform the public and shape policy debates around issues such as the impact of sanctions on Russia, Russian war strategy and the geopolitics of energy security in Europe. 

Helping to facilitate humanitarian aid

Across the country Russell Group universities have set up and coordinated donation hubs to collect medicines, bandages, and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.  

There are a number of agencies actively working to get humanitarian aid to those in need such as the Disasters Emergency Committee,British Red Cross Ukraine Appeal and Save the Children UK and Russell Group universities will continue to look at ways to enable their staff, students and wider community to lend their support in a practical way. 

Further information

Students, staff and the wider university community can find out more about their university’s response to the invasion of Ukraine and ways they can help from the relevant link below. 

Media Enquiries
Policy Enquiries

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