University twins with Ukrainian counterparts to offer hope to country’s higher education sector
The University of Plymouth has twinned with two Ukrainian universities to share resources, learning and ideas during the country’s humanitarian crisis.
The partnerships with the State University of Infrastructure and Technology (SUIT) and Kherson State Maritime Academy (KSMA) come as part of the Universities UK #TwinForHope campaign.
Plymouth is one of a small handful of universities twinned with two institutions, and has already signed memoranda of understanding with both the SUIT and KSMA.
The immediate focus has been on identifying and meeting practical needs such as IT infrastructure and mental health support but, longer-term, the universities will establish mutually beneficial academic partnerships with a focus on retaining and restoring a functioning sector in Ukraine.
KSMA, based in Kherson in southern Ukraine, is currently in internal exile with a severely damaged campus occupied by Russian forces. The SUIT, in Kyiv, has been hosting internally displaced refugees, and is struggling to pay basic bills.
Both remain in operation, however, and the SUIT has even credited Plymouth’s support for its increase in student numbers.

Professor Dafydd Moore , Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Plymouth, said:
“Standing by our colleagues in Ukraine, we’re proud to have twinned with KSMA and SUIT with a focus on supporting staff and students during an unimaginably difficult time for the country and the sector. Our immediate priority has been establishing exactly what the institutions need and meeting those requirements. From researchers to lecturers, administrators, IT experts, senior leaders and everyone in between, the University of Plymouth has really come together to work on this and ensure we provide help to the two organisations – both of which, like us, have a strong focus on maritime and navigation.

<p>Professor Dafydd Moore</p>

Professor Dafydd Moore

“The twinning initiative isn’t just about short-term help, though, it’s about supporting the sector to continue within Ukraine, so that it can rebuild long term. We’ve already started conversations about future initiatives of mutual benefit, including research group collaborations, joint grant applications, summer schools, and joint educational initiatives such as dual awards and articulation agreements.
“We’re really pleased that we’re in the rare position of helping not one, but two universities, and know this is the start of a great long-term collaboration.” 

Olena Kostenko, from SUIT, said:

“Even in wartime, the State University of Infrastructure and Technology continues its work and is ready to provide quality educational services. Our rates of admission of new students are higher than last year – while this is down to a number of factors, our active position in cooperation with European universities – and the twinning program with Plymouth – has certainly greatly influenced the number of students this year. As for our interaction with the University of Plymouth, we are only at the beginning of the journey and know there will be some great results. The fact that we continue to exist and work is already a great outcome, and we’re grateful to have Plymouth standing by us during this complicated period.”

What support is the University of Plymouth providing?

For students

  • Linking Students’ Unions to enable students to share experiences and help build a sense of community;
  • Creating a Ukrainian branch of the Hello Project – Plymouth’s buddy scheme for international students – to foster conversations and cultural exchange between students from all three institutions;
  • Providing mental health support thanks to the University of Plymouth’s Student Services team – including pre-recorded sessions and online resources.

For academics

  • Linking up researchers with Plymouth counterparts to discuss research interests after many research outputs at both Ukrainian institutions were destroyed;
  • Digital teaching and research resources available through Rapid Inter Library Loans;
  • Resources, guidance and training to support academic staff to continue to teach online within Ukraine.

Practical help

  • Providing digital skills support to enable safe remote teaching within Ukraine;
  • Working with our partners with a view to providing IT equipment to further support the twinned universities;
  • Linking up KSMA and SUIT with each other, enabling sharing of resources internally as well as from the UK;
  • Creating a mental health guidance document for staff and students, with the universities also discussing the possibility of a guest lecturer to offer further support;
  • Providing English language support via the University of Plymouth English Language Centre;
  • Potentially organising a visit to Plymouth in the autumn to further conversations about what more can be done in the short, medium and long-term.
<p>#TwinForHope campaign logo</p>

The #TwinForHope campaign

The national #TwinForHope campaign has been launched to showcase the impact that partnerships between UK and Ukrainian universities are having.
Since the start of the Russian invasion, over 95 professional pre-higher and higher education institutions have been damaged, while at least nine have been destroyed. University teams and Students’ Unions have arranged mass evacuations, and some students and colleagues are now protecting their country on the frontline. Others are spread far and wide desperately trying to continue their research and studies.
More than 75 mutually beneficial twinning partnerships have already been formed between UK and Ukrainian universities. Colleagues from both the twin universities stay in regular contact via online meetings to build relationships, make plans for sustaining Ukrainian education during the war, and create relationships that will make a real difference.
Vivienne Stern MBE, Chief Executive, Universities UK, said:
“I’m really proud of the way that the UK university sector has stepped up to play its part in the global response to enabling Ukrainian universities to get through this war and hopefully emerge stronger.” 
<p>Ukrainian medical student Mariia Pavlenko practising clinical skills&nbsp;</p>

Ukrainian medical student Mariia Pavlenko practising clinical skills

Ukrainian medical students take part in new summer school

The University of Plymouth’s involvement in the #TwinForHope initiative follows a summer school that it held for Ukrainian medical students.
It also complements ongoing work by our academics working within the country to support people with dementia and other potentially hidden disabilities.

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