UK pledges extra £10 million to help Ukrainian researchers

Expanded government support will fund two-year research fellowships for 130 Ukrainian academics, says science minister

June 28, 2022
A man holding cardboard painted into Ukraine flag
Source: iStock

The UK government has announced nearly £10 million in extra funding to help Ukrainian researchers, quadrupling the amount of financial support for the country’s at-risk scholars.

In a statement on 28 June, Boris Johnson outlined how a further £9.8 million would be made immediately available to the UK’s Researchers at Risk scheme in addition to the £3 million announced in March shortly after Russia’s invasion began.

More than 130 Ukrainian academics and their families will be brought to the UK under the programme and provided with fellowships to cover their salary, research and living costs for up to two years, Downing Street said.

“Science and technology will be decisive in ensuring Putin fails in Ukraine, and it will be crucial as we rebuild the Ukrainian economy,” said Mr Johnson, who added that the “UK will be with our Ukrainian friends every step of the way”.

It was announced that 79 UK universities have signed up to a Universities UK-run twinning programme with Ukrainian universities, which aims to establish “more than 100 long-term, sustainable partnerships to support Ukrainian institutions, students and researchers during the current conflict and beyond”.

Speaking to Times Higher Education, science minister George Freeman said the UK’s research community “should be proud of its response to the situation in Ukraine”, commending the early pledge of £500,000 by the Nuffield Foundation, as well as leadership shown by the Royal Society and other learned societies.

“As the UK’s minister for science, I am also proud of the government’s response in not just providing military and humanitarian aid but quickly providing support for research in Ukraine,” Mr Freeman said.

“We are very serious about resisting the appalling Russian aggression against Ukraine but also standing up for research which, we believe, is a global good.”

While Ukrainian scholars would be fully supported in the UK, the fellowships would also enable researchers to return to their homeland, Mr Freeman added.

“Our aim is not to poach researchers or undermine Ukrainian science but give sanctuary and support to these researchers who will be able to go back to Ukraine when they are able,” he said.

His department was working to support the digital economy and innovation in Ukraine, which would be important to help rebuild the country’s economy, he added. Under the latest support package, UK Research and Innovation has also been urged to prioritise Global Talent visa endorsements for Ukrainian researchers, technologists and other specialists.

“As we saw in the pandemic, countries which have strong digital economies are much more resilient so supporting this sector will be important in establishing rapid economy recovery,” said Mr Freeman, who noted that Estonia’s strong digital economy had allowed it to bounce back much faster than other nations following Covid lockdowns.

“These actions are about giving sanctuary and providing help to Ukrainians but also helping the country to get back on its feet.”

Serhii Shkarlet, Ukraine’s minister for science and education praised the latest aid package, stating that “thanks to the support of the United Kingdom, Ukrainian scientists who were forced to flee abroad due to Russian aggression will be able to continue their research and share their experience with foreign colleagues”.

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