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Support for Ukraine ‘needs to be more long-term’

Image: Grace Gay for Research Professional News

Programme director urges Europe to provide help beyond emergency funding for Ukrainian researchers

Europe must adopt a longer-term approach to supporting Ukrainian academics, a prominent researcher from the country has urged two years on from Russia’s full-scale invasion.

“Ad hoc ‘Ukraine emergency’ funds…are drying up,” according to Oksana Seumenicht, programme director of the MSCA4Ukraine project at the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Berlin, and co-founder of the German-Ukrainian Academic Society and Ukrainian Academic International Network.

“The focus has now to shift towards longer-term goals,” she said in an article for the European University Association, published on 20 February.

Less reliance on emergency measures

According to Seumenicht, “well-intentioned” emergency support has helped individual Ukrainian academics, but it also “hold[s] unintended negative consequences by affecting the operational capacity of Ukrainian universities”.

For example, a fall in the number of students enrolled at Ukrainian universities, facilitated in part by funding to help them travel abroad, has led to less tuition and a drop in teaching salaries, she said.

Instead of relying on dwindling emergency funds, support for Ukrainian academia “must now predominantly come through existing funding schemes aimed at strengthening European higher education and research”.

This could include visiting fellowships within the EU but, where possible, these should include an affiliation with a Ukrainian institution, Seumenicht urged. She added that development of joint programmes would also support Ukrainian institutions.

Taking stock

Marking two years since Russia stepped up its invasion, this week Research Professional News published an article from Ukrainian science journalist Svitlana Galata, who said that initiatives to support her country “should be designed with Ukrainian input”.

This week also marks a decade since the beginning of Russia’s occupation of Ukrainian territory.

Marking that sombre anniversary, the European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers joined Ukraine’s Council of Young Scientists in mourning the death and destruction caused by the war.

“On this day, our hearts go out to our colleagues and friends, and to all the people of Ukraine: it marks a decade of them going through war, a decade of dying, a decade of suffering and grief,” Eurodoc said on 20 February.  

“Let us not forget what is happening in Ukraine. Let us continue our support.”