Worsening security situation in our vicinity

3 March 2022

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused security concerns of a political scale without parallel since World War II. It is a chocking and sad development with catastrophic consequences to the civilian population in Ukraine.

Just like the Swedish Government has emphasised, Ukraine is a European country with a democratic government elected by the Ukrainian people. My thoughts and concerns go to everyone affected by the ongoing war in Europe.

Hans Adolfsson, Vice-Chancellor, Umeå University

Photo: Mattias Pettersson

As a university, it is our responsibility to stand up for fundamental academic and democratic values. In times such as these, we need to be particularly clear about that. Our mission is to satisfy society's needs for high-quality research and education. This requires a right to freely search and share knowledge without the risk of influence by a political or ideological authority.

Together with 900 universities across the world, Umeå University has signed the Magna Charta Universitatum, which is an international declaration on the principles of academic freedom and institutional autonomy. Supporting those values at a time when these are being challenged is of utmost importance. In Ukraine, 87 universities have signed the declaration, and my most heartfelt sympathies go to those and all other universities in Ukraine at this time. Just like the Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions (SUHF), Umeå University is in full agreement with the European University Association's (EUA) statement on solidarity with Ukraine.

On Wednesday, the Minister for Education, Anna Ekström, held a press briefing about higher education and research as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in which I participated as vice chair of SUHF. The Swedish Government is now urging all universities to immediately cut all contacts and collaborations with government agencies in Russia and Belarus, and not to initiate any new contacts or agreements.

Collaborations in education and research are often based on individual contacts between research fellows. I'd like to emphasise the importance of Umeå University taking our responsibility to make assessments regarding the suitability of contacts and collaborations on a case-by-case level. It is also important to distinguish between government run or controlled universities and, on the other hand, the individual. Many researchers risk their lives by criticising the actions of the Russian regime.

The University Management is following the ongoing developments in Ukraine and has activated the university-wide Crisis Management Team. The University will do its utmost to support Ukrainian students and researchers who are currently in Umeå, and those who are fleeing the country as a consequence of the war. Umeå University is a part of the international network Scholars at Risk (SAR), which works to protect researchers who are under threat and cannot work in their native country.

Umeå University is prepared for this type of support being needed and naturally wants to aid fellow colleagues and students in Ukraine who have been victimised. Nevertheless, we also need to be prepared to help Russian academics who oppose the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and who are hence at risk of reprisals. This also applies to those who are already in Umeå, of course.

At this point in time, we need to be there for those affected and for each other, both on campus and through the networks the University is involved with. All students and staff who are worried and in need of support and counselling due to the war in Ukraine are welcome to contact the Student Health Service or the occupational health care services. I also hope we can support each other in our day-to-day contacts, and be there for each other as fellow human beings.

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