3 March 2022
Students, staff and partners of Cardiff Metropolitan University have expressed shock and sadness at unfolding events in Eastern Europe, following the military invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation. Our community stands with the people of Ukraine in condemning this act of war and in recognising Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and national borders.
Our university is a global community with students from 140 countries, including Ukraine and Russia. We are committed to providing support for our whole community at this extremely testing time.
Ukraine is a country with a rich cultural heritage now under threat. We offer solidarity with our partners at Lviv National Academy of Art (LNAA) in Ukraine and with whom we are engaged in a collaborative research project, Creative Spark, funded by the British Council and we have sent messages of support to Professor Vasyl Kosiv, Rector at LNAA.
Our university has a duty of care towards all our students and staff; students and staff who are internationalist in outlook and who believe that education, research and innovation - and the cultural diplomacy and soft power that education creates - transcend the boundaries of nation states, while simultaneously respecting national borders.
The ramifications of this war are personal, political, economic, social and environmental, and will be felt for generations to come. The sanctuary and support required will be felt by all of us for years to come. We must not underestimate the stress and strain caused to all our students and young people as a result of a war in Europe on top of a lengthy and ongoing global pandemic.
As educators at Cardiff Met we are committed to playing our part as a designated University of Sanctuary and we are working closely with the UK Universities of Sanctuary Steering Group, Welsh Government and Hefcw, the Wales Centre for International Affairs and Academi Heddwch to ensure our university responds with appropriate support.
Our first postgraduate Sanctuary Scholar came from Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine, graduated recently with a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and is now teaching refugees in South Wales. We have recently welcomed our first doctoral level Fellow, supported by the Council of At-Risk Academics (CARA) which works with universities to identify and offer support for academics and students threatened and/or displaced by conflict. We will continue to work closely with CARA to offer appropriate sanctuary and support for Ukrainian academics and students.
The University’s counselling services are available for students and staff who need support and colleagues are encouraged to speak with your line manager if you require advice or guidance.
Many colleagues have asked what they can do to assist the Ukrainian people at this time and I would encourage three actions:
First, it is vital that we continue to support all our students, wherever they come from, with appropriate academic, emotional and financial assistance. This will include, in the longer term, continuing to build partnerships with students and academics in Ukraine, strengthening our cultural diplomacy supported by organisations such as The British Council, and encouraging UK students to participate in mobility programmes with Ukraine, including through the recently launched Taith Cymru initiative.
Secondly, I would encourage those who are able to make financial donations to established organisations that delivering assistance where it is most needed:
Thirdly, many of us, myself included, have family connections with Ukraine and family members still in Kyiv and other cities under threat. As educators I would encourage you to influence and lobby for a halt to this war by engaging in peaceful protest and there are many events scheduled in Wales where our presence can be felt and our voices heard.
Wales is a welcoming nation and a nation of sanctuary. Through education we will ensure our doors are always open to the world. Education will be the soft power that rebuilds capacity and confidence within Ukraine and, ultimately between Ukraine and Russia once more. Our Russian students did not call for this war and we need to hold them close too, while supporting the people of Ukraine.
Finally, I end this statement with the words of the late Desmond Tutu who said, ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality’.
Professor Cara Aitchison
President and Vice-Chancellor
Cardiff Metropolitan University