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University “reviewing its relationships” with Russia 

This article was originally submitted on the 23rd March

In an email to students last Monday, the principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, Professor Peter Mathieson, condemned the Russian invasion and expressed support for the people of Ukraine. 

This comes after Universities UK, a group made up of 140 universities, condemned the invasion, as well as an open letter signed by 37 different societies which urged the university to issue an official response to the crisis.

In the email, Professor Mathieson detailed the university’s response going forward.

Professor Mathieson praised the response of Edinburgh Global, a university support service for international students, who have worked to ensure the safety of staff and students overseas. 

He detailed several ways the university is supporting both Ukrainian and Russian students affected by the conflict. These measures include prioritised hardship funding, immigration support and a scholarship fund for displaced prospective undergraduates. 

The principal also highlighted the university’s wellbeing services, including the student counselling service, which is free to access for students who have been affected by these events in any way. This and other support is accessible via the university’s ‘Statement on Ukraine’ webpage.

Additionally, the university is seeking to limit ties with Russia. Professor Mathieson wrote:

“We have instructed our investment managers to divest of all our Russian investment holdings at the earliest opportunity.”

The university is also reviewing the honorary degree awarded to the Russian MP and political scientist Vyacheslav Nikonov in 2012. Nikonov has recently taken to his telegram channel to repeat false allegations about “the Nazi Kiev regime” and the use of Ukrainian citizens as human shields. 

Professor Mathieson, however, stressed that: “current links [to Russia] are limited to individual academic projects and exchange programmes”. 

More widely, the university is aiding in the humanitarian response to the invasion in coordination with the City of Edinburgh Council and the Acting Consul General of Ukraine. They aim “to ensure a secure and welcoming environment for refugees and asylum seekers.”

The university has been working with the Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) dedicated to supporting endangered academics, to host ten at-risk scholars from conflict zones and will now include Ukrainian scholars.  

CARA has launched a fundraising appeal and said in a statement that they “stand ready to try to help any academics from Ukraine who turn to us”.

Professor Mathieson ended the email by celebrating the widespread support from across the university, such as the university staff who are preserving Ukraine’s cultural heritage through downloading and digitising collections as well as students who have rallied support.

He said:

“I am proud of the way our community has come together to support each other at this troubling time”.

Image courtesy of The Presidential Administration of Ukraine via Wikimedia Commons