Support for Ukraine: an update on our response

A message from Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University.

Since the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Government, colleagues across the University have been working tirelessly to support members of our community and I wanted to update you on some key developments.

First, I want to reiterate that we join our colleagues in the sector in condemning this invasion. Our thoughts are with Ukrainian people and their family members in Edinburgh and beyond, and we fully endorse the Universities UK statement on this issue:

Statement from Universities UK

Our immediate priority has been to secure the safety of our staff and students overseas. My huge thanks go to colleagues in Edinburgh Global, who worked around the clock and under immense logistical pressures to ensure everyone was able to return safely.  

We are also supporting all of those affected, and colleagues in Edinburgh Global are in touch with them regularly. We are providing immigration and financial support for affected students, and we have further information on our website on academic as well as wellbeing support. Our support extends to Russian students and staff too, many of whom have spoken out against the actions of the Russian Government at great personal risk. You can find a summary of all our actions so far at:

Support for students and staff affected by the situation in Ukraine 

Humanitarian response

With around 1.7 million people now displaced by this conflict, and that figure likely to increase in the days and weeks to come, our attention is turning to how we can best support the growing humanitarian crisis. We recently met with our civic partners at the City of Edinburgh Council and the Acting Consul General of Ukraine. The city of Edinburgh is twinned with Kyiv, and we stand ready to provide whatever support we can to ensure a secure and welcoming environment for refugees and asylum seekers. 

We have a long history of supporting staff and students displaced by distressing global circumstances. We are a founding member of the Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara) and were the first university of sanctuary in Scotland. Working with Cara, as we did for academics displaced by the conflicts in Afghanistan and Yemen, we have agreed funding to host ten at-risk scholars from conflict zones across the world, with a focus on Ukraine as the most pressing issue. Cara has set up a fundraising appeal to support their work bringing academics to safety.

Cara fundraising appeal  

As well as supporting academics, we have agreed a scholarship fund for displaced undergraduate students seeking asylum to join us in Edinburgh. Our admissions teams are supporting prospective students who have been affected by this crisis, acknowledging that they may have difficulties gaining the qualifications and English language tests required to meet any offer conditions.

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

Reviewing relationships

In line with others in the sector, we have been reviewing our relationships with Russia. We have instructed our investment managers to divest of all our Russian investment holdings at the earliest opportunity. We have agreed to review, as a matter of priority, the honorary degree awarded to the Head of the Ruskiy Mir Foundation, Vyacheslav Nikonov, and are now progressing the formal process to do this.

We do not have any institutional partnerships with Russian universities or organisations, so our current links are limited to individual academic projects and exchange programmes. These appalling events are the actions of the Russian Government and not the Russian people and we remain committed to the free exchange of ideas between universities and between academics, regardless of nationality or location, while recognising the importance of managing the risks associated with international collaboration. 

Community actions

Throughout the wider University, colleagues are supporting global efforts to save Ukraine’s cultural heritage for future generations by helping to download and digitise collections from galleries, libraries, museums and archives. Our medical and veterinary school communities are also looking at specific ways they can support Ukraine directly. Our students too, in particular the Polish Society, have been quick to rally their support for those affected by this crisis.

We have also set up a SharePoint site with advice for staff and students on how best to support communities, both locally and globally: Helping communities affected by the invasion of Ukraine

In closing, I am proud of the way our community has come together to support each other at this troubling time and I hope this message conveys the scale of the actions that have been taken in a relatively short space of time.

Professor Peter Mathieson

Principal and Vice-Chancellor