Ukrainian delegates welcomed by twinned university

time:2023-05-29 13:15:23 source:Al Jazeera

Representatives from a Ukrainian university have made their first visit to the University of Plymouth since a twinning programme started last year.

The State University of Infrastructure and Technology (SUIT) in Kyiv visited as part of the national #TwinForHope campaign.

The Devon university has been providing support to SUIT students and staff displaced due to conflict.

This week marks a year since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The trip to Plymouth marked the first time representatives from the two universities had been able to meet in person since the invasion started.

The initial focus of the twinning project has been on IT infrastructure and mental health support.

There are also plans for a long-term mutually beneficial relationship focused on retaining and restoring a functioning higher education sector in Ukraine.

The three visitors from SUIT on Tuesday were Oleksandr Sobovyi, assistant rector; Olena Kostenko, vice-rector for international relations and postgraduate studies; and Oleksandr Kulinchenko, vice-rector for administrative-economic and social-educational work.

Ms Kostenko had to flee Ukraine last year with her children, and has been living in Portugal since, and said she felt she had "tried her best to save" her children.

She added it was reassuring to know the university was "not alone" during any potential difficulties in the future.

She said: "We have many many universities you know, in these hard times, we have signed many agreements with different universities all over Europe, but mostly, these agreements are just agreements on paper.

"Our agreement with the University of Plymouth is a real partnership and we are really grateful about this."

The visitors from SUIT were guests of honour at a civic reception hosted at the The Box by the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Cllr Sue Dann.

Professor Dafydd Moore, senior deputy vice-chancellor, said: "What's really important, this is a partnership of equals, they may be suffering some problems at the moment for reasons we know all about, but this is not charity.

"This is about understanding a respected university in Ukraine, and how we can work together for collective benefit down the line, but obviously with some immediate concerns and support."

Professor Kevin Jones, executive dean of the faculty of science and engineering at the University of Plymouth, said the partnership was a "two-way street", with the two universities learning from each other.

He said: "One of the tragedies is a lot of the universities, the higher education establishments, have basically just lot all of their facilities.

"This particular group were effectively just displaced from their campus, so they have no capability for carrying on, either for education or research activities."

During the visit, it was also confirmed the university would transport an electricity generator to enable SUIT's research and support staff to keep working during blackouts caused by the ongoing Russian invasion.

It has been donated and adapted by Princess Yachts following a request for support from the University.

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