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 students who joined 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 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. 

Supporting civilians

The University is delighted to have partnered with Bukovinian State Medical University on traumatic injury research.

The aim of the partnership is to identify the barriers to patient care in Ukraine and to use research and clinical expertise established in Leeds to determine how to overcome them.

The partnership sees researchers from both institutions exploring ways to optimise care pathways for patients with lower limb trauma specifically focusing on major lower limb amputations. Both institutions will focus on the whole pathway from treating the injury in an emergency medical setting, to managing pain, short term rehabilitation and the longer term physical and psychological impact of losing a limb.

The alliance is led by Mr Patrick Coughlin, Consultant Vascular Surgeon in the University of Leeds’ School of Medicine and Leeds Teaching Hospitals’ NHS Trust’s Leeds Vascular Institute, who added: “Leeds is thriving in healthtech – we want to see if there is technology that we can develop at the university that would be useful in managing these patients with the aim of getting the injured people back into everyday life as soon as possible. We hope to also be able to use our experience of research design at Leeds to test such technological interventions in well-designed clinical trials in Ukraine.”

The project is part of a twinning scheme led by Universities UK International, which has partnered more than 100 UK institutions with a counterpart in Ukraine. The aim of the scheme, which has just marked its first anniversary, is to enable Ukrainian campuses to stay open, academics to continue vital teaching and research activities and students to continue their studies.

Due to its success, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) awarded £140,000 to this project, which comprises of two phases. 

  • The first phase will see researchers hold workshops with patients, carers, and healthcare providers in Ukraine to establish what treatment currently looks like. From there the team will determine the barriers to optimal care and opportunities for improvement. 
  • The second phase will feature stakeholder sessions for UK based researchers to identify the technology and interventions that could help overcome these barriers.

Further projects could include developing and testing an education package for surgeons on managing injuries; developing low-cost prosthetics, and assessing the impact of the conflict on peacetime healthcare delivery.

Professor Simone Buitendijk 
Vice-Chancellor, University of Leeds