Solidarity with war-torn country must be expressed through funding and action, says German exchange service
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has called for ”long-term solidarity with Ukraine”, including financial support for Ukrainian higher education institutions and assistance to refugee researchers and students in Germany.
In a statement released to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the DAAD’s leader, Joybrato Mukherjee, noted that universities had been attacked and destroyed. He urged Germany to make more resources available to students and researchers remaining in the country, who were attempting to pursue their studies and research under the threat of shelling.
“The war is still continuing a year after Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, and the people there are affected by death, extensive suffering and deprivation,” he said. “The DAAD, its member institutions and student bodies have stood firmly by the people in Ukraine since the war began.”
Mukherjee said that German universities had demonstrated considerable commitment to welcoming and supporting refugee researchers and students, as well as joint projects with Ukrainian partner universities. But he warned that a better funding commitment from the government was needed to continue the work done in these projects.
“Here in Germany, we need a broad and multi-year support initiative, which must include assistance for Ukrainian refugees, activities to maintain German-Ukrainian higher education partnerships and long-term funding for the rebuilding of universities after the end of the war,” he said.
The diverse support projects implemented by German universities should receive reliable and long-term funding from the federal government, the DAAD said. A close and lasting link between Ukrainian and German academic institutions and research institutions would increase security for all of Europe, the body added.
“We in Germany need to have an action plan until 2030 that ensures the rapid and successful rapprochement of Ukraine with the EU and a comprehensive reconstruction of the Ukrainian higher education system,” Mukherjee wrote.
One step to achieve this would be to more closely align Ukraine with EU initiatives, such as the European Research Area and the European Higher Education Area, the DAAD proposed.
In its statement, the DAAD said that financial support from the German foreign office and the education and development ministries had enabled it to mobilise about €21 million for projects to maintain higher education links within Ukraine, and providing assistance and scholarships for refugee Ukrainian academics and students in Germany. The DAAD also funded around 170 projects involving German and Ukrainian universities, especially around the provision of digitisation tools to assist teaching and administration at Ukrainian universities.
About 10,000 Ukrainian academics, university staff and students have been supported by the DAAD and the Erasmus programme to date, the statement said.
“It’s inconceivable to imagine the rebuilding of Ukraine after the war without a renewed and reformed Ukrainian education system,” said Serhiy Kvit, president of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Ukraine. “The revitalisation of Ukraine after victory in the war will be partly dependent on the role played by Ukrainian universities in further social development within our country. Ongoing German-Ukrainian cooperation will undoubtedly result in more rapid adaptation of Ukrainian higher education institutions to the European academic environment.”
In a separate statement, the Humboldt Foundation, a government-sponsored charity supporting international collaboration, said that in addition to protecting researchers, it was also important to create long-term prospects for them in their home country.
“There should be no permanent brain drain,” the foundation said. “As soon as possible, reintegration in Ukraine should be promoted and cooperation between the Ukrainian higher education sector and the international research community strengthened.”
The foundation hosts the Philipp Schwartz Initiative for scientists at risk. Since spring 2022, 96 researchers from Ukraine have been supported through the initiative at 60 research institutions in Germany.