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How the invasion brought universities in the UK and Ukraine closer together

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Twinning scheme one year on: How the invasion brought universities in the UK and Ukraine closer together

From supporting the efforts to preserve vital rail networks, to offering financial assistance to build bomb shelters so Ukrainian institutions can continue to conduct classes; UK universities have played a pivotal role in helping to support Ukraine over the past year.

Today [29 March] marks one year of the twinning initiative which has gone from strength to strength, boasting more than 100 twinning partnerships between universities in the UK and Ukraine. The landmark programme has enabled Ukrainian campuses to stay open, academics to continue vital teaching and research activities and most importantly, students have been given a lifeline to continue their studies.

Set up soon after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Cormack Consultancy Group (CCG), in partnership with Universities UK International (UUKi), established twinning in the hopes of reducing ‘brain drain’, and to further support universities in Ukraine to come out of the crisis with increased resources and skills. The positive impact of the scheme was recognised by government through a £5m UKRI investment that was made in late 2022 to support its work.

Jamie Arrowsmith, Director of Universities UK International said:

“Today marks a monumental occasion as we reflect on and celebrate the incredible achievements of the twinning partnerships over the past year. It’s amazing to see the bonds that UK and Ukrainian institutions have made with each other through the scheme. These vital relationships have helped to strengthen ties between our two systems and highlights the UK’s continued support for Ukraine through the current conflict.”

He added: “With thanks to funding from Research England, we are delighted to announce that 33 partnerships will receive grants to develop research and innovation activities that will further strengthen the scope and impact of the twinning scheme.”

On the one-year anniversary of the twinning initiative, it was announced today that 33 UK universities have been awarded funding through the UK-Ukraine Research and Innovation twinning grants scheme – provided by UKRI’s Research England – to enable twins to further their research and innovation collaborations.

Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Executive Chair of Research England, said:

“The twinning initiative provided Research England with a unique opportunity to support Ukraine researchers on the ground and we are delighted with the impact it is having on the lives of those working and studying during this exceptionally stressful time. We are thrilled this funding has provided support to a further 33 UK twinning partnerships.”

She added: By supporting Ukraine’s researchers through this twining scheme, we enable them to continue their work helping to secure meaningful and long-lasting collaborations in the years ahead.”

A key feature of twinning is the amazing relationships it helped to foster between universities. One example of this can be found in the collaboration between University of Sheffield and Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic University. The university, which is located in the capital city of Kyiv, received £20,000 from their ‘twin’ for the construction of a bomb shelter, which enabled them to start in-person education again.

Dr Malcolm Butler, Director of Global Engagement at the University of Sheffield, said:

“Twinning partnerships, such as the one we have here at Sheffield with Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, are about not creating a brain drain from either university. Their focus is to help academics and students at the partner universities continue their research and their studies. The air raid shelters we helped to fund and rebuild from Sheffield are a good example of this – they provide safe spaces on campus, if needed, which enable students to carry on studying. 

He added: “The twinning partnerships are also very different from charity. They’re not focused on raising and giving money, they’re about having conversations with people at the partner institution to understand the problems they are facing and developing practical solutions together, drawing on each other’s strengths and expertise. At Sheffield, we feel this has worked well and we’re looking forward to working with KPI further.”

As well as supporting in the physical redevelopment of Ukraine, UK universities have also focussed their efforts to build resilience across a range of professions and sectors. Through twinning partnerships with two separate Ukrainian institutions, The University of Plymouth is supporting the development of programmes in key sectors for the Ukrainian economy, offering immediate advice and support to student counselling services and long-term assistance to grow academic capacity in areas vital in helping to heal the mental wounds caused by the invasion.

Dafydd Moore, the University of Plymouth’s Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor said:

“It is about being mindful not just about what practical help we can provide now but what we can do in the months and years ahead to build social and economic resilience in Ukraine after the war. Whether that be in marine engineering or mental health support, UK universities can play an important role in helping Ukrainian Universities to make their own vital contribution to the future of Ukraine, and it has been a privilege for us in Plymouth to be a part of that.” 

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