Monday 23 May 2022

Dutch universities break ties with Russia, Belarus; pledge to support students and staff

Photo: Anne Lakeman

Dutch universities, hbo colleges and research centres have suspended their formal and institutional partnerships with educational institutes in Russia and Belarus, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The invasion, the organisations said in a joint statement is ‘a direct assault on liberty and democracy, which are the fundamental values supporting academic freedom and cooperation.’

At the same time, universities and colleges remain fully committed to providing help to Ukrainian students and staff, the organisations said.

‘Research flourishes through international cooperation and the open exchange of knowledge, insights and ideas,’ the statement said. ‘This is why we are not limiting ourselves to implementing this decision, but are also supporting Russian and Belarusian researchers, teaching staff, students and organisations that have spoken out against the invasion of Ukraine.’

At present, 917 Ukrainian, 1,653 Russian and a few Belarusian students are studying at Dutch universities, and there are scores of formal partnerships in place. In addition, Dutch knowledge institutions employ several hundred Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian staff.

Russian and Belarusian students, teaching staff and researchers currently in the Netherlands will be able to remain here and the institutions where they are working or studying will support them to the best possible extent. This includes providing funding to students and staff who no longer have access to their bank accounts.

The organisations have also urged all Dutch nationals studying in Russia and Belarus to return to the Netherlands immediately.

Ukrainian students, teaching staff and researchers who have fled their home country will also be able to register to find a place at a Dutch institution as quickly as possible. ‘To this end, we are also joining existing initiatives such as the international Science for Ukraine movement,’ the universities and institutes said.

Students

Russian student Anna, who is taking a pre-master’s course at Radboud Univerity in Nijmegen, told RTL Nieuws that she is desperately worried about what will happen because of the sanctions and about her friends and family back home.

‘My bank account has been blocked so I can’t use it any more,’ she said. ‘I can’t transfer money or take any out. How am I supposed to pay for everything?’

‘I identify as Russian but I can’t do anything about the situation. I can’t change it. No-one thought this would happen. It is terrible and I am so frightened.’

Twenty-year-old Taya from Kiev told RTL Nieuws that her family has been hiding in cellars because of the bombing. ‘Today, my mother rang to tell me that one of our relatives has been killed. It was a horrible thing to hear… unimaginable.’

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