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Russell Group institutions step up to help Ukrainian academics


Universities announce measures including accommodation and fellowships to support at-risk academics and students

Members of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities have announced a range of measures to support Ukrainian students and academics affected by the Russian invasion, including fellowships and free accommodation.

The announcements come after the UK government, the national academies and the Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara) unveiled a £3 million fellowship fund for Ukrainians, with the Nuffield Foundation contributing £500,000.

“Across the UK our members have responded quickly to the terrible events which have impacted academics, students and our wider communities, both directly and indirectly,” said the group in a statement on 1 April.

“Since the start of the war, our members prioritised support for staff and students in the UK or overseas who have been affected, including providing visa advice and helping students return from Ukraine and Russia.”

Several of the Russell Group’s members have pledged financial and in-kind support, including the University of Nottingham, which is looking to repurpose disused buildings to provide refugees with accommodation under the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme.

The University of Manchester has created an emergency fund of more than £5m to help provide support for around 10 undergraduate and 10 postgraduate students displaced by the war. The fund is also open to those from other countries affected by armed conflict.

Similarly, the University of Sheffield has pledged £1m of funding to be used towards a package of support for those affected, including new scholarships for students transferring from a Ukrainian university, or those who are due to begin their studies this autumn.

And Imperial College London has set up a new scholarship fund worth £250,000 to support Ukrainian students at both undergraduate and masters’ degree level.

Elsewhere, the University of York and Newcastle University are offering two and three scholarships respectively for students from asylum-seeker and refugee backgrounds to progress to higher-level study, including full tuition fee support and a bursary for living expenses for applicants wishing to study at the university.

And University College London has teamed up with Cara to launch a £500,000 Academic Sanctuary Fellowship Scheme to support displaced Ukrainian academics at both early career and senior levels.

Government sanctions

Meanwhile, the government announced it was suspending publicly funded research and innovation collaborations with Russian universities and companies that are of strategic benefit to the Russian state.

In a 26 March letter to Greg Clark, chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, science minister George Freeman said he was asking the research community to review their partnerships with Russia and “take appropriate action, based on their governance structures, the international situation and guidance on the government website”.

“The UK collaborates within a number of multilateral organisations that execute brilliant science; where Russia is a member, we will work with the multilateral organisations and other partners to agree an appropriate response,” he wrote.

The Russell Group said: “We support measures taken by the government to stop funding for research programmes linked to the Russian state and institutional collaborators, without unfairly penalising individual students and academics, many of whom are equally as appalled by the Kremlin’s actions. Our universities have reviewed any collaborations or other links they may have had with Russia and are taking appropriate action.”

He added that the government was “urgently exploring ways to provide support for Ukrainian academics, both to enter the UK and to pursue their valued work”.