23 Aug 2022

International education in Ukraine: continuing in the face of adversity

International education in Ukraine: continuing in the face of adversity


Since the beginning of the Russian Federation’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, our state and spheres of public life have faced many challenges. The field of education is no exception.

As a result of the Russian aggression, a large number of educational institutions have been completely destroyed or badly damaged, and unfortunately, at least five foreign students have died at the hands of the Russian invaders to date. Many students and teachers have had to move to safer places or leave Ukraine altogether. During the evacuation of foreign students, Ukrainian universities helped in their transportation by providing buses, accommodation etc. During the bombings, teachers supported their students by staying with them in bomb shelters. International departments of universities promptly informed the student community about the current situation in the country, as well as changes in the educational schedule.

As we can see, in such difficult times, Ukrainian universities have demonstrated their resilience and strength, as they were able to continue the educational process and support their students. This is due in part to the strength of the international student community in Ukraine, and Ukrainian higher education institutions’ close cooperation with institutions abroad.

International students in Ukraine

According to the data of the Ukrainian State Center for International Education, before the Russian invasion, more than 75,000 students from 155 countries studied in Ukrainian universities. The largest communities of foreign students in Ukraine were citizens of India (more than 18,000), Morocco (more than 8000), Turkmenistan (more than 5000), Azerbaijan (more than 4000), Nigeria (more than 4000), China (more than 4000), Turkey (more than 3000), Egypt (more than 3000), Israel (more than 2000) and Uzbekistan (more than 1500). The most popular specialties among them are medicine, management, economics, dentistry and computer science.

In such difficult times, Ukrainian universities have demonstrated their resilience and strength

Ukrainian higher education is highly valued among foreign applicants, and not only at the 11 Ukrainian universities that were included in the QS World University Rankings in 2022. Experienced teachers and professors, a wide variety of specialties, prestigious universities and European quality standards remain the main reasons for the popularity of higher education in Ukraine among international students. Other advantages that most influence international students in their choice of Ukraine as a destination for higher education are the ratio of quality to cost of education, recognition of Ukrainian diplomas abroad, and the opportunity to enrol twice a year (in November and March). The results of marketing research on the attractiveness of Ukrainian higher education for foreign citizens show that more than 50% of the surveyed students enrolled because of the recommendations of friends who had already studied in Ukraine. 

Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, the vast majority of foreign students have left Ukraine and are in safe places, continuing their studies online. Higher education institutions and teachers keep in constant contact with them. However, there are also students who have stayed, and in their free time are helping Ukraine in the war against Russia: they volunteer, provide medical aid to the injured, donate to the needs of the army etc.

International cooperation and support

Our universities and all of us together continue to work tirelessly, despite the war. In order to support students and teachers, Study in Ukraine promotes international cooperation of Ukrainian educational institutions in the form of academic exchanges and participation in the implementation of educational programmes. Higher education institutions are also looking for various opportunities for their university communities: opening representative offices outside of Ukraine, implementing double and joint diploma programmes, expanding academic mobility and student exchange programmes, working on joint scientific research and projects etc.

For example, V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, expanding its international relations, has opened a representative office in Munich (Germany), offering Bachelor's degree programmes in computer science, biology, and cultural studies. Ivan Franko National University of Lviv has also initiated a special exchange programme with the University of Kassel (Germany) for undergraduate students to study at the Faculty of Economics and the Faculty of Finance and Business Management. These opportunities are offered to both Ukrainian and international students, in Ukrainian or English.

There are many examples of this kind of international cooperation. It is also worth mentioning the international Twinning project ‘Unity Initiative’, within the framework of which dual degree programmes are being implemented between Ukrainian and British universities. A total of 79 universities of the United Kingdom have already joined the partnership, which provides for a wide range of support for Ukrainian universities. Among other things, it is possible to take online modules from British universities with credits recognised and counted by the Ukrainian university. The initiative also facilitates the development and introduction of double diploma programmes, conducting joint research etc. There are future plans to expand the scope of the initiative by involving partner universities from the USA, Canada and EU countries. Such support and international cooperation will certainly have a significant impact on the development of universities and the quality of educational services in Ukraine.

Looking ahead

The new academic year is about to begin and Ukrainian universities are eagerly awaiting their students. Currently, higher education admissions are underway. It is very important for Ukraine that foreign students continue to choose Ukraine as a destination for education. For this purpose, new rules, adapted for wartime, for admission of foreign citizens to Ukrainian higher education institutions were developed. In particular, these rules provide for the possibility of remote admission. Universities will also offer more up-to-date, accessible and flexible educational programmes, and the range of educational programmes taught in English is expanding.

Despite Russia's unjust war of aggression, Ukraine continues to move forward, and Ukrainian higher education is becoming stronger, developing strategies for reconstruction and continued reform. In terms of internationalisation in the coming years, the state plans an increase in the volume of educational services, the support of humanitarian and cultural values, and the integration of international students as priorities in attracting foreign students to come study at Ukraine’s strong, resilient higher education institutions.