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Danish universities to cut ties with Russia and Belarus

Following a Danish government request, all Danish universities have stopped their collaboration with state-linked institutions in Russia and Belarus. This will mean that researchers and students at Danish universities will no longer be able to go on exchange or study abroad there.

Article updated 4 March with a comment from University of Copenhagen rector Henrik C. Wegener.

The rectors from all eight Danish universities, including the rector of the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) Henrik C. Wegener, signed a declaration Tuesday to stop all bilateral, institutional collaboration with government-linked institutions in Russia and Belarus. It follows a government request of Danish universities that they put the partnerships on hold.

The declaration means, specifically, that students and academics from Danish universities will no longer be to able to study abroad in the countries, and that researchers from Danish universities will not attend conferences or other scientific meetings on Russian and Belarusian soil. The release does not state specifically how the decision will affect Russian and Belarussian students and scientists currently in Denmark.

Rector of Aarhus University, Brian Bech Nielsen, is pleased that the Danish universities are standing together:

»The management team at Aarhus University strongly condemns Russia’s acts of war, and Belarus’ support of them. For this reason, I am pleased that all eight Danish universities are united in coming to this decision and stopping institutional collaborations on research and education with government-linked stakeholders in Russia and Belarus,« he says.

The University of Copenhagen will discontinue exchange agreements, but currently enrolled students will not be sent home.

Rector of the University of Copenhagen, Henrik C. Wegener, calls Russia’s invasion an absolutely unacceptable attack on a peaceful democratic nation.

»The purpose is to send a clear signal that we find the completely outrageous aggression towards Ukraine completely unacceptable. Now we are in the midst of a conflict. It is important to send the strongest possible signal that this behaviour has consequences,« he says.

The decision means that active contracts and agreements on research collaboration will, to the greatest possible extent, be terminated or suspended. But the rector emphasises that the decision does not mean that researchers, for example, need to halt the publication of a scientific article if they have collaborated with a Russian co-author.

Distinguishes between Russians and the state

In the joint press release, the universities call the invasion an »unprovoked attack on Western democracy and the basic values that are the foundation for modern European states,« while also expressing support for the Ukrainian people, including researchers and students.

The universities stress that they will »protect individuals who are affected by the current war«, and that they will therefore reach out to Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian students and employees.

»At Danish universities, we distinguish between the Russian state and Russian citizens,« they write.

At the same time, the Danish universities will seek support among other European universities to collaborate on initiatives that can help Ukrainian university staff and students.

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