Kent and Kherson State (Ukraine) universities sign historic twinning agreement

Gary Hughes

Kent and Kherson State University (KSU) in southern Ukraine have signed a twinning agreement to support an institution deeply impacted by the ongoing war.

The reciprocal agreement was completed on Tuesday 28 June – on Ukrainian Constitution Day – as part of the UK government-backed Universities UK (UUK) twinning initiative which has now seen more than 70 UK universities enter into similar twinning arrangements with Ukrainian universities. Among those to attend the signing were Ukrainian government representative Olga Budryk. KSU was represented by its Rector, Professor Oleksandr Spivakovskiy.

The initial focus for Kent and KSU will be on identifying ways in which Kent can support KSU during one of the most difficult and challenging periods in its 105-year history. KSU is in territory currently under Russian control and the university has had to close its campus and relocate to the West of country as a result of the continuing occupation.

Following the signing, Kent will provide immediate support to KSU, including the delivery of online English classes by Kent for KSU students; online guest lectures involving both Kent and KSU academic staff, open to both Kent and KSU students; engagement with Kherson academics in a European research network on the history of Eastern Europe, and the donation of IT and other technical equipment by Kent to KSU. The two universities will also work together for longer term mutual benefit in research and teaching.

Both universities also participated in a Universities UK-organised conference on 28 June with 23 other UK universities which have also pledged their support for universities in Ukraine.

Professor Karen Cox, Kent’s Vice-Chancellor and President, said: ‘We feel both humbled and privileged to be able to help our colleagues at Kherson State University in their extraordinary efforts to maintain their support for the students and staff. Along with a number of practical measures, we also bring the solidarity and support of all our students and staff and an ongoing and heartfelt commitment. Although born in war, we hope very much that this is a partnership that will very soon be able to flourish in peace.’

Vivienne Stern MBE, Director of Universities UK International said: ‘We are delighted that the government is putting its weight behind this extraordinary scheme, through which 79 UK universities have paired up with Ukrainian universities to help them to continue to operate, helping them teach remotely, hosting their staff and students on UK campuses, providing library access and equipment, and supporting the continuation of Ukrainian research activity.

‘These are significant and long-term commitments, and the solidarity shown between universities in the UK and Ukraine has been remarkable and inspiring to witness.’

Professor Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool and international policy lead on the UUK board, said that the twinning initiative ‘will offer vital support to Ukrainian staff and students determined to continue their learning and research despite the ravages of war.

‘While short-term assistance is crucial, both sides are seeking to build lasting ties of cooperation and cultural exchange that will outlast the war and contribute to the rebuilding of the Ukrainian education system when the war is over,” she said.

Online signing ceremony (Prof Karen Cox, bottom row, middle)