Ukraine seeks international support to stem brain drain

Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Education and Science, Mychailo Wynnyckyj, has called on Western universities to stem the drain of talent over its borders by refocusing support on study and research programmes in Ukraine.

“We have a war to win and a country to rebuild and we need our best brains here,” he said.

This could be done in particular by supporting joint degree programmes, as opposed to supporting more students leaving Ukraine.

Ukraine has seen 60 higher education institutions damaged since the full-scale Russian invasion began in February 2022 and six destroyed. Additionally, 2,638 schools have been damaged and 437 completely destroyed.

The minister was speaking on Monday 23 October at the Anniversary of the Magna Charta Universitatum conference in Lodz, Poland, on the theme of “Universities and Reconstruction of Cities: The role of research and education”, hosted by the Magna Charta Observatory and the University of Lodz.

Addressing more than 100 university leaders from around the world but mostly from Europe, Wynnyckyj repeated many times how grateful he was for the extraordinary support given by European universities – especially those in Poland – for students, academics and university staff from Ukraine since the full-scale invasion.

But he made an impassioned plea for support now to be focused on Ukrainian talent in Ukraine.

Wynnyckyj said: “We believe the future is with joint degree programmes. We believe we can counter the risk of brain drain by using modern technologies, particularly collaborative online international learning at BA level.

“What is extremely important is targeted funding for Ukraine-based programmes at masters and PhD level.”

He said Ukrainian higher education will definitely require infrastructure and capacity building, and targeted funding for joint research.

“However, at this point we ask for help in creating non-resident fellowships so Ukrainian researchers can continue their research in Ukraine.

“This is extremely important because [although] we see at this point a very large number of students and faculty returning to Ukraine, many are not returning due to economic hardship reasons rather than for safety reasons.”

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