Two years of war in Ukraine

Immediately after the outbreak of war on 24 February 2022, Humboldt-Universität strongly condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine and took a clear stance. In social media, press releases, a public event in support of Ukraine in the university’s courtyard of honour and in messages on its own website, the university declared its solidarity with Ukraine in writing, verbally and in video contributions on numerous occasions and condemned the Russian aggression. The Ukrainian partner universities received expressions of support from the HU, institutional contacts with the Russian partners were frozen and this was clearly communicated to the partners in a corresponding letter.

Almost a year after the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, there was a direct digital exchange between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selensky and students from Humboldt-Universität and the European University Viadrina on 17 January 2023. The event was streamed live on the HU’s YouTube channel.

In addition, a photo exhibition on Russian war crimes in Ukraine was held in the foyer of the main building in September 2023. The Ukrainian flag has been flying on the roof of Humboldt-Universität in Berlin-Mitte since the start of the war.

Dr Yoan Vilain , Presidential Representative for International and European Affairs: "As a university, we have seen a responsibility to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from the very beginning. We were and are only able to fulfil this task thanks to the great commitment of many colleagues in research, teaching and administration as well as the Humboldt-Universität Foundation. We are concentrating on providing assistance to Ukrainian students and academics, but we are also developing programmes for the necessary leadership training with our Ukrainian partners with a view to rebuilding the country."

Academically, the events were accompanied by three consecutive lecture series. In the winter semester 2022-23, the Institute of Slavic Studies first undertook a scientific classification, followed by a broad lecture series on Russian propaganda in the next semester, while in the public lecture series of the last semester, academics from the HU and guests again dealt with the topic of Ukraine in times of war and afterwards.

In conversation with our colleagues at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv in Ukraine a partner university of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Ksenii Smyrnova and Roman Petyur talk about what every day on campus is like under the constant threat of Russian attacks and how they try to deal with the consequences of war.
Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.

Support for Ukrainian refugee students

Humboldt-Universität set up an internal task force back in March 2022, which met regularly to identify support options and offer assistance. One result is that refugee students can be enrolled at HU as so-called programme students. As a result, HU was able to accept Ukrainian students at the start of the 2022 summer semester. There were 22 students in the first semester and more than 50 in the second. In the first two semesters, HU was able to offer a scholarship and also waive the semester fees. This was made possible by funding from the DAAD, the Erasmus programme and, last but not least, support from the Humboldt-Universität Foundation. The latter also provided funding so that two Ukrainian students already enrolled at HU could supervise the newly arrived refugees. This sponsorship is now being continued for a further year for one counsellor. There are now 48 Ukrainian refugee students studying at our university in the current winter semester 2023-24, and we expect a similar number in the coming semester.

In order to respond to the great need for language courses among refugees, we were able to organise German courses with financial support from the Berlin Senate, in which participants with basic knowledge had the opportunity to achieve a language level over the course of 15 months in order to study at a German university. In total, more than 40 people took part in these courses organised by the HU Language Centre. In addition, the Career Centre, funded by the DAAD, offered further courses during the same period, in which 10 Ukrainian citizens took part alongside many others.

In addition to enrolment, we also endeavour to provide good counselling. Since the outbreak of the war, we have answered around 2000 enquiries.

Ukrainian researchers

The greatest difficulty for refugee researchers, especially in the first months of the war, was to find a clear academic connection and funding that would enable them to continue their academic work. We responded to this by organising an internal fundraising campaign, which met with a great response, and by providing DAAD scholarships so that researchers could bridge the gap financially until - following a corresponding application - a third-party funding provider took over the funding. Competent third-party funding advice and the willingness of colleagues at HU to accept and integrate researchers from Ukraine were important parts of the support for Ukrainian researchers who had fled. In this way, we have been able to support 18 Ukrainian researchers so far. We were also able to successfully place two further Ukrainian researchers in existing programmes for refugees (Philipp Schwartz Initiative).

Ukrainian partner institutions

In response to the Russian aggression, Humboldt-Universität has intensified and expanded its existing contacts with Ukrainian partners (especially the universities in Kiev and Lviv) over the past two years. To this end, they have been invited to networking meetings in Berlin. They are now also supporting us in establishing a Ukrainian Studies specialisation at the Institute of Slavic Studies. Students there can now choose Ukrainian as their main or second language.

We are also able to associate the University of Lviv with a newly designed Central European Leadership Programme. The three-week training programme is due to start this summer.

Ukrainian pupils have been able to take the university entrance test for Ukraine in Berlin for two years now

Over the past two years, the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science has asked the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for support in organising the university entrance tests. The tests for university entrance qualifications in Ukraine take place internationally on the same day and were made possible in Berlin by the Berlin University Alliance (BUA), of which HU is a member. In 2023 alone, 2,305 exams were taken as part of the BUA E-Learning Alliance project.

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