LGBTQ+ rights and concerns have come to the forefront across PSE campuses, and rightly so. (I devoted an entire issue to “Transcending Tolerance” back in November, and invite you to review that for a still-timely summary of pronoun conflicts, safe spaces and trans pride initiatives across CdnPSE.)
Today, though, it’s time to revisit a topic from 3 weeks ago: PSE Supports for Ukraine, particularly the ways in which CdnPSE has been welcoming refugee scholars and students, and supporting Ukrainian students and staff here in Canada (beyond the expressions of Outrage & Condemnation, or words of Solidarity & Solace).
“It is easy to feel powerless in the face of international events such as the current conflict, but if we look to our mission as an educational institution, there are small but significant things we can do.” – Deep Saini, president, Dalhousie U
CdnPSE is finding far more ways to help than merely offering mental health advising or emergency bursaries (although those are crucial too)…
From the EU and UK to Canada, governments were quick to announce streamlined refugee entry and temporary work permits for the millions of displaced Ukrainians already flooding Europe, as well as visa extensions to those already onshore here. Academia has likewise been trying to make room for scholars at risk…
Scholars at Risk and the IIE Scholar Rescue Fund attempt to assist refugee academics and encourage governments and institutions worldwide to provide proactive supports. (25 CdnPSEs are members of the SAR-Canada section.) SAR’s statement of solidarity with Ukraine on Mar 2 mentioned the likely need for temporary academic positions, financial support, fellowship programs, and expedited immigration, work and study visa processes for all those displaced by the war. IIE-SRF has been matching Ukrainian academics at risk with offers of temporary positions elsewhere. McMaster U recently announced $600K to employ “scholars, researchers and lecturers at risk, remotely and locally.”
“We have seen time and again that conflict, war, and human rights abuses around the world have a detrimental impact on students and scholars, affecting their studies and, too often, their personal liberty and safety.” – Peter Mascher, vice-provost international affairs, McMaster U
I mentioned last time that France is funding 3 months of emergency financial assistance to Ukrainian researchers and their families, and several Israeli universities are offering temporary academic posts to displaced Ukrainian scholars. UNESCO has started mapping host countries’ responses to the influx of Ukrainian students (although so far it focuses on European countries). Canada has expanded eligibility for “an unlimited number” of Ukrainians under an emergency immigration program, but they will be considered temporary residents rather than refugees. Arriving Ukrainians will have access to language training and employment assistance, but may not have access to refugee settlement services or healthcare coverage. (CdnPSE may want to consider how they can scale up language courses and certification programs for foreign professionals, among other things, should the country see thousands of Ukrainians arriving.) Escaping from the trauma of a warzone, these new arrivals will also need mental health supports that may be in short supply. Advocates warn that incoming Ukrainians under this program will also not have the benefit of government-vetted sponsorship groups – which opens another possibility…
King’s College London (UK) is collaborating with Citizens UK on a “Homes for Ukraine” initiative, which hopes to sponsor 250 Ukrainian refugees entering the country by Easter. KCL will help Ukrainian students continue with their interrupted studies, and provide at least 6 months homestay. Later, the program will assist with applications for welfare and scholarships, in order to stay in the UK. This is the first time a UK university has acted as a community sponsor for a large number of refugees, but 20 other universities are reportedly exploring the idea too. The Guardian
Concordia U’s Refugee Centre is offering legal clinic services to Ukrainian students on campus who are trying to help their family or friends emigrate from Ukraine.
“Helpless is the word that explains exactly what I feel right now. It’s so hard to understand that your family’s there and you cannot help them.” – Anna Shypilova, science student, uManitoba
Most CdnPSEs have been reminding their campus communities of available mental health and emergency financial supports, and reaching out individually to international students from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. (Canada has about 1,500 Ukrainian students, largely in Ontario, and about as many Russian students, at least as of 2017.) Some of the most immediate, tangible needs are financial…
Many students from Russia and eastern Europe are finding themselves cut off from family financial supportdue to sanctions on SWIFT, or have seen savings decimated by currency fluctuations. Last time I mentioned that Western U is working on a refugee scholarship program, and that the Ukrainian Canadian Club of Kingston was fundraising to support about 20 Ukrainian students at Queen’s U and St Lawrence College. (So far, the fund has raised $58K and 10 students have shared $14K in support.) Since then, a similar effort has begun to support ~30 international students from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus in London Ontario. U Fraser Valley and Ontario Tech U have launched International Emergency Funds, Acadia U is bolstering its International Student Support Fund, George Brown College added $250K, and uToronto has launched a $1M matching fund for donations to support displaced students from Ukraine. McMaster U has pledged $200K to fund supports for forcibly displaced or refugee students. Dalhousie U is giving Ukrainian students “special consideration” in its financial aid pool, and has designated a percentage of awards to Ukrainian students at risk. Yesterday, uManitoba pledged up to $1M in emergency bursaries to provide “robust financial support to students in financial distress as a result of the war in Ukraine, international conflicts, environmental catastrophes and extraordinary life events.”
UBC was among the first CdnPSEs to announce tuition deferrals for students impacted by the war on Ukraine. (UBC has 160 Russian students, 60 Ukrainian, and 4 from Belarus.) I also mentioned last time that Humber College was offering students deferred fee payments for this and next semester, and uToronto was considering tuition deferrals on a case-by-case basis. (Humber has 183 Ukrainian students enrolled, the most of any Ontario college.) Since then, Fanshawe College has indicated it is working with students individually to defer fees or offer bursaries. uManitoba has provided extensions and deferrals for winter term fees. (UofM has about 37 Ukrainian students enrolled.) Dalhousie U, which has 7 Ukrainian students enrolled, is waiving application fees and offering “increased flexibility with respect to payment deadlines and options.”
uAlberta was quick to announce it would waive 2022-23 tuition fees for Ukrainian study permit holders facing financial hardship, and will provide funding to help with living costs to incoming and current Ukrainian students. (UofA has about 50 Ukrainian students enrolled.) Brandon U has also said it will waive tuition fees for Ukrainian students, and open its residences to refugees. (Currently Brandon has no Ukrainian international students.) Humber College has “eliminated outstanding balances for the winter term” for Ukrainian international students. Texas A&M U announced this week that they will grant their Ukrainian students free tuition, room and board, starting next semester. (So far, 14 students have been identified.) uChicago is offering full scholarships for Ukrainians to study at its Paris campus, which allows them to stay in Europe.
“We have a moral obligation… We have to do what we can to love those who are impacted by this, and to make those who are doing it see that it’s wrong.” – David Docherty, president, Brandon U
Through no fault of their own, students from the war zone suddenly find themselves unable to return home over spring breaks or the summer term, and institutions are being encouraged to extend campus housing or offer “rent amnesties” to support affected students. Last time I mentioned that Western U was looking at the issue of summer housing. uManitoba Student Residences are offering “special consideration” to affected students who request to move out late. uWindsor is offering “housing opportunities in residence” for the summer.
Free Online Courses
University of the People is an open, online institution offering free courses with only a $120 exam fee – so $4,800 for an entire degree. UoP’s courses are asynchronous, so ideal for refugee students in unpredictable circumstances. (Currently more than 10% of UoP’s students are in fact refugees.) UoP is offering at least 1,000 scholarships for Ukrainian students, many of whom may wind up in refugee camps and will desperately need to complete their education. Founder Shai Reshef urges PSEs worldwide to support Ukrainian students in their time of need: “take as many as you can – and maybe even one more!” Inside Higher Ed
“Every university in the world [is] claiming they are inclusive and they want diversity and they want to open their gates to people who really need them. Refugees are the people who need them most.” – Shai Reshef, founder, University of the People
Refugee Camp Partnerships
With the help of $10M in donations, Southern New Hampshire U expanded its free, competency-based online learning initiative for refugees back in 2017. Currently, it serves 630 students in refugee camps across Africa and the Middle East, in partnership with local nonprofits that provide blended learning facilitation and supports – from security and internet access to food and water. In 2017, SNHU said “no other institution has tried to go into refugee camps at scale to do a full-blown American degree at no cost to refugees.” (York U is among others that has participated in a Kenyan initiative, Borderless Higher Education for Refugees. No doubt there are others by now…) Inside Higher Ed
After 2 years of pandemic, we’re all more aware of the toll a crisis can take on students’ academic performance – or even ability to access documents and records. PSEs are already starting to extend accommodations and flexibility where it is needed most…
Student leaders from the UK urge universities to “implement and proactively offer bespoke exceptional circumstances arrangements to ensure that students from Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus are fully supported academically and no students are needlessly worrying about passing assignments during such a terrible situation.” Likewise, the Ukrainian Canadian Students’ Union says affected students need consistent academic accommodations from all their profs, not one-off case-by-case decisions.
“It’s difficult to do homework when your family is living in a warzone.” – Anna Shypilova, science student, uManitoba
Displaced students from Ukraine are being offered streamlined enrolment, credit transfer, emergency housing and/or supports at many European institutions, including Budapest U of Tech, Slovak U of Tech, Tech U of Moldova, and uZurich. UNBC has said it will consider waiving some application fees. and offer expedited reviews for applicants from the region. uAlberta has expedited admission applications from Ukraine, and simplified documentation requirements. Dalhousie U will expedite the processing of applications from Ukraine and surrounding countries. uMontréal profs are bringing Ukrainian students to Canada, overcoming “logistical and administrative hurdles” to enrol them as exchange students in appropriate programs, in conjunction with UdeM’s Europe office.
Western U has established a drop-in counselling centre specifically for students and faculty affected by the Ukraine crisis, and is offering them priority appointments for mental health counselling. Likewise, uManitobasays that students impacted by the war will have “direct access to counselling without having to be triaged.”
“CNA is built on a foundation that is more than just providing an education. We need to continue to set the standards for humanity.” – Liz Kidd, president, College of the North Atlantic
Almost a month ago, I summarized scores of ways that PSEs were expressing solidarity and solace to members of their community impacted by the war on Ukraine. Since then, a few other examples have arisen in CdnPSE…
Worldwide, campus landmarks have been lit in the colours of the Ukrainian flag as a show of solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Among the more picturesque examples lately were Hatley Castle at Royal Roads U and Schmon Tower at Brock U.
Niagara College has collected and displayed heartfelt messages from its campus communities outside its international offices, to demonstrate that “our hearts are with the people of Ukraine.” (The NC teaching brewery is also bottling a “Ukrainian Anti-Imperial Stout” and a “Ukrainian Golden Ale.”) Inside NC
“As a college community, we provide more than just an education to students while they are with us. In their time of need, we become their security blanket and their main source of support and care… We, in essence, become their home away from home.” – Gary Torraville, director, International, Niagara College
Divestment of endowment and pension funds is underway by some CdnPSEs too. uManitoba has divested the 0.03% of its pension program that was invested in Russian companies, and confirmed that no endowment funds were.
The war in Ukraine has certainly impacted Ukrainian students and scholars in Canada, but it has decimated Ukrainian institutions and scattered campus communities. CdnPSE can do much to assist them too…
Cormack Consultancy Group has been working for years with 50 Ukrainian universities, and over the past month has been actively gathering information, hosting webinars, twinning institutions, and directly raising funds to deliver humanitarian aid. Ukrainian universities have made it clear that they do not want any offers of support that will disconnect them from students or staff, or encourage a brain drain from their country. What these institutions encourage, though, includes:
Cutting Russian ties for research partnerships.
Offering online courses to Ukrainian students, allowing them to gain credits and complete their academic year.
Providing library access to Ukrainian students and scholars.
Accepting exchange students until year-end, with credits that can be transferred to their home institutions in Ukraine.
Offering visiting professorships virtually or in person, or mini-grants for profs staying in Ukraine.
In the longer term, Ukrainian institutions would like to pursue:
Joint programs and degrees that could help save the home degrees from Ukraine.
Quality assurance assistance in Ukraine during and after the crisis.
Twinning with international universities and capacity-building projects.
An Open Ukrainian University to collect English and Ukrainian synchronous and asynchronous courses, and perhaps even full degrees.
For much more detail, visit Cormack Consultancy’s “What You Could Do to Help” microsite.
Again, remember that you can find all my coverage of the War on Ukraine here (currently 11 issues, and counting).
I expect multinational vendors to produce pretty high-quality videos, and don’t usually share them here – but this one seems appropriate on a day when my focus has been institutional generosity and support for students from Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia…
Random Acts of Kindness
Chartwells are “food-forward difference makers, bound together by a desire to feed hungry minds and prepare students for the future.” (It’s impressive what professional copywriters can come up with when you give them an actual budget, isn’t it?) But this 1:15 min video, “Delightful,” is largely unscripted, and designed to share the enthusiasm of students and staff on some 300 higher ed campuses, as they aimed to spark 500,000 “random acts of kindness.” With the focus on soundbites from students and frontline staff, the vid nicely lifts your spirits without being overly commercial. YouTube
As always, thanks for reading!
Tomorrow is April Fools’ Day, and it remains to be seen whether higher education has continued to regain its sense of humour since the pandemic, or if the tense political and geopolitical environment will mute the more extravagant and frivolous expressions of springtime joy we sometimes see. (Last year I compiled a collection of Higher Ed Hijinks for 2021, here – but they were mostly just stray tweets, not full-blown video masterpieces.)
Just in case the “new normal” includes more April Foolery, I’ll be scanning about 900 higher education YouTube channels from around the world tomorrow, and collecting examples in real time in a 2022 April Fools playlist. (Let me know if you spot any I should add!)
Meantime, take everything you see tomorrow with a few grains of salt!
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