After the beginning of the full-scale unwarranted invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation on February 24, 2022, the survival of not only academic freedom in Ukraine, but of academic life, was put into question. The reports that have emerged in the months since demonstrate a staggering and debilitating impact on the infrastructure and people that make up the Ukrainian academy, impacting scholars, researchers, and students alike. As of August 16, 2022, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine has reported that 286 educational institutions have been demolished and 2,014 others severely damaged. The estimated cost of damages to Ukrainian educational institutions has already exceeded $10 billion. Many universities and colleges in several Ukrainian cities and towns have reported the deaths of their faculty members and students due to the indiscriminate shelling of civilian targets by the Russian armed forces. According to UN estimates, at least 12 million people in Ukraine have been internally displaced or have fled to other countries, with more than 5.2 million Ukrainian refugees recorded across Europe alone. Recent reports from The World Bank show that those displaced include almost 700,000 students and over 25,000 educators.
It is not just the most recent war that has destabilized academic life in Ukraine. In the past decade, Ukrainian educational institutions have suffered from the Russian Federation’s constant military harassment. Since the illegal annexation of Crimea and the beginning of a proxy war in the easternmost Donetsk and the Luhansk regions in 2014, 18 institutions of higher education have had to move their operations to relatively safer locations. However, that former security has been compromised by the most recent Russian invasion. Two of the already displaced Ukrainian universities from the Donetsk and the Luhansk regions have been relocated for a second time, as well as one university from Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine that used to accommodate more than forty higher education institutions before their buildings were destroyed by indiscriminate attacks launched by the Russian military. Most of them are now being shelled again because, as aforementioned, the Russian forces have transitioned to a strategy that seeks to completely eliminate all infrastructure in the Ukrainian regions neighboring the Russian Federation.
Over the last seven months, Ukrainians both within and forced out of their country have witnessed, along with the world, an ongoing proliferation of horrific damage, dispersal, and loss. Generations of Ukrainian teachers and students have been forcibly denied access to learn and live freely and safely. Undergraduate and graduate students' lives have been upended, inhibiting completion of degrees and the upstart of professional futures. Departments that rely on experimental studies are unable to complete intensive research projects. Universities, like V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, may face the possibility of closure because of a lack of students and funding to rebuild their infrastructure and resume their operations when the war is over. Academic buildings that have also served as shelters continue to attract Russian destruction, including a school in the village of Bilohorivka which was bombed in May 2022. At least 60 people were presumed to be dead following the explosion.
It is evident that the future of a vibrant Ukrainian academy depends not only on the ability of Ukrainians to win this treacherous war, but on the international academic and human rights community to enable and equip Ukrainian instruction, education, and research in the meantime. Endangered Scholars Worldwide (ESW) commends the financial and academic support provided by universities and other academic institutions across the globe by hosting Ukrainian professors and students that have left their homes since the beginning of the war, including Ukrainian Global University (UGU) which has worked in partnership with the New University in Exile Consortium (the Consortium). We encourage universities and colleges around the world to continue to forge collaborations with organizations like UGU in order to provide residential and remote fellowships to both those who have left and cannot leave Ukraine because of the legal constraints of martial law and those who deliberately choose to stay at their universities in solidarity with their colleagues and students remaining in the country. The Consortium continues to compile a comprehensive list of resources intended to support Ukrainian academics and students that can be found here. The Consortium’s petition in support of Ukraine has also been signed by over 2,300 signatories, which ESW has endorsed and circulated, as well.
Please send appeals to your local and national representatives and review the resources below to donate, send appeals, and sign petitions in support of Ukraine:
(Last updated September 22, 2022)