Update from Vice-Chancellor Professor Simone Buitendijk on the University’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Shortly after the Russian military invaded Ukraine, I promised to update you on some of the steps we are taking to support innocent people caught up in this abhorrent wave of violence, which goes against everything this University stands for.  

In addition to the measures I outlined then, we are taking the following steps:  

University twinning 

Our application to be formally twinned with a Ukrainian university was recently approved. We will be offering specific support to our colleagues at Kyiv National Economic University – where President Volodymyr Zelenskyy studied law. An additional twinning arrangement with a medical school is currently being discussed to further demonstrate our solidarity with staff and students caught up in the conflict. 

Supporting students  

  • SES student support teams in Schools have directly contacted our almost 60 affected students to check their needs and offer support; their academic personal tutors have been made aware of this and are being kept updated. We have added flexibility to the mitigating circumstances process in order to accommodate any academic difficulties students face. This support will continue. 
  • Students have also been accessing emotional support from the Student Counselling & Wellbeing service, and through the Chaplaincy.  
  • Leeds University Union’s advice team is providing tailored support to Ukrainian and Russian students to meet any needs as they arise. This includes Emergency Financial Assistance and referrals to the University Financial Assistance Fund for ongoing support, guidance on mitigating circumstances, and referrals to the Student Counselling and Wellbeing drop-in service. The team offers practical help and signposts to emotional support where needed.  
  • We have accessed funding made available by the Office for Students for Ukrainian nationals and Ukrainian-domiciled students experiencing financial hardship as a result of the war. This is expected to help about 20 Ukrainian students registered with us. 
  • To enable attendance at our international summer school in July, Ukrainian students studying at the University of Leeds have been offered free places. 
  • The University has increased its support for the establishment of Sanctuary Scholarships with an additional £100,000 and is working towards securing University of Sanctuary status. These scholarships will provide support for asylum seekers to study at the University and would be available to anyone eligible – including those affected by the war in Ukraine.  
  • We have also agreed a tuition fee discount of at least 25% for Ukrainian nationals for the 2022/23 academic year, for both continuing and students set to join us in 2022/23. 

Supporting academics 

The University has pledged additional support for the Council for At Risk Academics (Cara), for its essential work helping academics and their families who are at risk as a result of the invasion. 

Supporting refugees 

We are working with Leeds City Council on a programme to host Ukrainian refugees in student accommodation – arrangements for this are currently being finalised, but it is anticipated the first arrivals might be welcomed later this month. 

As when I wrote to you previously, it remains essential that we continue to be guided by our values and pursue ways in which we can support those affected by the appalling actions of the Putin regime. 

Developments in Ukraine during the last three months continue to shock and horrify us all. The war has generated strong commitment from across all sections of society and from the international community, including from our University community – staff, students and alumni alike – to support those who have been affected, whether directly or because they have loved ones caught up in the conflict. 

We also continue to be mindful of the effects on Russian and Belarusian staff and students, many of whom oppose this conflict.  

Ours is a diverse and tolerant community with a long history of welcoming people from around the world and supporting them to reach their potential and make an impact on the world. That outlook is consistent with our University values, which will continue to be our guide as we respond to the unfolding horror of events in Ukraine and our hope that the conflict will end very soon. 

Professor Simone Buitendijk 
Vice-Chancellor, University of Leeds