Global partnerships

Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv

A pioneering Twinning Initiative has boosted bonds between Edinburgh and Ukraine, strengthening the cross-border exchange of people and ideas.

Vyshyvanaka material

A year of alliance: Edinburgh-KNU partnership 

May 2023 marks one year of partnership with Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv (KNU). The alliance has been a catalyst for a series of academic and cultural interchanges between our two institutions and builds on the city twinning between Kyiv and Edinburgh, established in 1989. 

The partnership not only supports the current needs of Ukrainian education and innovation, but also the longer-term, reciprocal strategic objectives of our two institutions and nations beyond the current crisis. 

We stand with KNU during the invasion of Ukraine, and commit to a future of collaboration.  

Messages from staff and students in KNU

Video: Edinburgh-KNU Partnership
Messages from KNU staff and students.

Our united activities 

In the past year, shared activity has included in-person and online seminars and labs, seed funding for research proposals, skills and resource development, and student and staff visitors to Edinburgh. Activities continue to evolve and look ahead, and are strengthened by funding of nearly £200k, from the UUK International grant scheme launched as part of the UK-Ukraine Twinning Initiative. 

Read more about the funding:

Grant supports Edinburgh-KNU partnership

This mutually beneficial partnership has created impactful connections in our combined communities. Here are some of the stories so far: 

Cultural celebration and partnership review 

Visitors from KNU are in Edinburgh, gathering together to honour one year of our partnership and discuss plans for the partnership. This anniversary visit falls at a time of cultural significance, Vyshyvanka day on 18 May, the national day celebrating Ukranian traditional dress. In appreciation of this Edinburgh is hosting a special event for delegates with video and music from Kyiv showcasing vyshyvanka traditional dress, folk songs, and an exchange of Scots and Ukranian language, alongside reflections on the past year and plans to enhance the alliance. 

Community, cultural and partnerships lunch
Cultural, Community and Partnerships Lunch at The Chaplaincy, 18 May 2023, with special guest, Kseniia Smyrnova, Vice-Rector for International Cooperation, KNU.

Vesnianky is the name of ancient Slavic ritual songs associated with the beginning of spring and the approach of spring field work. With the help of vesnianky, people transferred their energy to nature, so that all living things around woke up and came to life again.

Both videos below, have been created by colleagues of the Center of Folklore and Ethnography of the Institute of Philology at KNU and kindly provided to us. The students and teachers of the Institute perform the song Vesnianka.

Video: Vesnianka
Vesnianky is the name of ancient Slavic ritual songs associated with the beginning of spring and the approach of spring field work. With the help of vesnianky, people transferred their energy to nature, so that all living things around woke up and came to life again. Vesnianky are almost always accompanied with the dances and games, which are supposed to "call upon" spring and a good harvest. There are many names for vesnianky: "yahivka", "haiilka", "hahilka", "yahilka", "mahilka", "halanivka", "laholaika", "ryndzivka" and others. Each area of Ukraine, in addition to a special name, also had its own traditional lyrics for vesnianky and spring fun. Haivky are a type of vesnianky - songs that were performed only during the Easter holidays. There were many various types of haivky: for younger children, for older children, for boys and girls, there were also haivky singing which boys and girls chose their mates. Unlike the haivky, the vesnianky cover a whole cycle of spring songs, which are sung from the Annunciation Day throughout the whole spring. Thus, not every vesnianka is a haivka, although every hayivka is a vesnianka. But the most important thing is that all vesnianky, no matter what they are called, are those songs that cheer people up, bring beauty and optimism to their souls, and are a precious treasure of the early culture of our great-great-grandfathers. This videos was created by colleagues of the Center of Folklore and Ethnography of the Institute of Philology of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv (KNU) and kindly provided to us. The students and teachers of the Institute perform song Vesnianka.
Video: Vyshyvanka Presentation
Vyshyvanka Presentation on Ukrainian Folk Costume by the Department of Folklore Studies, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.

Collaboration in Chemistry: visiting students  

KNU Chemistry students
L-R: Kateryna Dzhihirei, Marharyta Voitenko, Maryna Korobeinyk, Eleanor Campbell, Nadiia Hriadchenko and Sofiia Zhadanova

Five students from KNU came to Edinburgh to complete research for their Masters theses in Chemistry, as part of the ‘Environmental Sustainability Lab’. In their three-month exchange, they had the opportunity to develop practical skill in the labs in Edinburgh as well as experience life in Scotland for the first time. Sofiia, Nadiia, Maryna, Marharyta and Kateryna all talked about the future impact of this experience on their careers and to Ukraine’s development of science.  

Read about the five students' experience:

Rebuilding a war-torn country: Meeting the future of Ukraine

Urban Regeneration: Impacts of War Lab 

Professor Soledad Garcia Ferrari

The idea for collaboration in Urban Regeneration emerged in Kyiv, where our colleagues face the prospect of their cities and towns after war. Guiding the ‘Impacts of War Lab’ are Dr Kostyantyn Mezentsev (KNU) and Professor Soledad Garcia Ferrari (Edinburgh), which looks to limit damage, achieve justice and aid reconstruction. The first online workshop in March discussed ‘Post-war/conflict urban regeneration’ and exchanged experiences and ideas between students and staff from both universities. 

I thought it was so inspirational - maybe because we had such a great group of young people, thinking about the future. What has taken place so far is only the beginning…

Professor Soledad Garcia Ferrari 

Read more about the Urban Regeneration: Impacts of War lab collaboration:

Urban Regeneration: Impacts of War Lab

Mutual development: Literatures and Cultures in the Face of War

Vyshyvanka traditional attire
Ukrainian vyshyvanka traditional dress

The ‘Literatures and Cultures in the Face of War Lab’ focuses on guest lectures, joint seminars, and research mobility, sharing Ukrainian and Scottish culture This collaboration between Edinburgh and KNU is led by Dr Emmanuelle Lacore-Martin, Senior Lecturer in French and Francophone Studies, Deputy Head of the Department of European Languages and Cultures (DELC), UoE and Professor Lilia Miroshnychenko, Head of the Department of Foreign Literature and the Institute of Philology, KNU.   

I think everybody has commented on that it's certainly not one sided at all. It's very much a partnership of equals despite the inequalities.

Dr Emmanuelle Lacore-Martin

Read more about the Literatures and Cultures in the Face of War:

Literatures and Cultures in the Face of War: Edinburgh-KNU Collaboration

Collaboration in Law  

Law school

In October 2022, the Edinburgh Law School hosted a hybrid masterclass (jointly with the School of Social and Political Science) entitled ‘EU diplomacy in practice’. The lecture was delivered by  William Hanna (former EU ambassador and Edinburgh University alumnus) and saw the online participation of KNU staff and students. Led by Dr Leandro Mancano (Edinburgh) and Professors Kseniia Smirnova and Yevgen Gerasymenko (KNU), a visiting research scheme will be rolled out between June and August, which will fund the visit of three members of the KNU academic staff to come to Edinburgh and interact with colleagues at the Law School. Further developments are being explored, including a series of joint online seminars and remotely delivered lectures.

Edinburgh Law School 

KNU students at One Health Summer School 

One Health Summer School
KNU Student, Viktoriia Palahnuik

In August 2022, the University of Edinburgh hosted 50 undergraduate students at the Una Europa One Health Summer School including four students from KNU. They took part in the two-week programme to work in international teams on innovative solutions to Global Health challenges. In relation to the programme, the KNU students also requested an opportunity to speak to the whole group to share their experiences of the impact of war. 

We talked about food security issues in Ukraine and how the war has impacted the country’s grain supply. I feel this is a safe space to talk openly and coming here makes you realise that you are not isolated. This experience has given myself and other Ukrainian students the confidence to tell our story.

Viktoriia PalahnuikKNU student 

Read more about the One Health Summer School, which took place in 2022:

Students from Europe gather for pioneering summer school

Academic writing for researchers

Academic writing

The Institute for Academic Development (IAD) is collaborating with the Department of Publishing and Editing at KNU to focus on academic writing skills. This has so far resulted in sharing resources and the next steps will focus on hosting joint online workshops on writing and publishing as part of a KNU researcher week. The overall aim is to take a shared approach to identify and deliver new ways to offer support at both institutions and to strengthen the support for academic writing and publishing at KNU. 

The IAD offers development opportunities for researchers at all career stages:

IAD development opportunities

Delivery and participation in NICE project 

Nice logo

NICE is a multi-university virtual exchange programme designed to develop students’ intercultural and entreprenurial skills. The Edinburgh-KNU partnership fund has provided the participation of 15 students and four staff from Ukraine in the programme’s Virtual Summer School in July 2023. KNU colleagues will co-deliver parts of the programme. 

We're looking forward to sharing this experience in the summer. In the future, the intention is to continue to work with KNU on the NICE project. Working with colleagues, when their lives and livelihoods are at risk, it gives us a special incentive to prioritise this collaboration. We care about this work, and also deeply care about our friends in Kyiv. 

John Bennet, Projects teamStudy and Work Away Projects Manager, SWAY

Find out more about the NICE project:

Nice Project

One year on 

One year on from the partnership’s beginnings, the breadth and depth of developments make it very clear: this alliance matters. The value of solidarity, when facing the impact of war, has propelled the efforts of the staff teams and student communities from both institutions. We continue to collaborate, for our people, for our institutions, and for our nations. Now and in the future, we stand with KNU. 

Related Links

Edinburgh’s twinning with Kyiv bolstered 

Edinburgh and Kyiv strength links 

University of Sanctuary - Ukraine 

UK-Ukraine Twinning Initiative