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University of Copenhagen
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UCPH to receive Ukrainian refugees – and to send a signal to Russian universities

The University of Copenhagen would like to receive Ukrainian students and university staff who have fled to Denmark, writes the Rector's Office. They are therefore looking closely at what the options are in the special legislation passed by the Danish parliament.

Six days into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The mood in the University’s ceremonial hall on 2 March was not exactly festive. The conference was to celebrate the centenary of Niels Bohr’s esteemed institute. But two young Ukrainian physicists made an indelible personal appeal. Tetiana Kozynets, PhD student at the Niels Bohr Institute, and Mykhailo Flaks from the University of Turin said: Write open letters. Put off co-publication with Russian universities. Help Russian researchers escape from Putin’s madness. Welcome Ukrainian colleagues.

In line with all Danish universities, UCPH has suspended formal research collaboration with Russian and Belarusian state institutions, re-called students from Russia, and put student exchange agreements with Russia on standby.


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UCPH would like to receive Ukrainian students and university staff who have fled to Denmark. Right now, we are looking into what we can do under the special emergency legislation that the Danish Parliament has just passed. As the University of Copenhagen’s bachelor’s programmes are not in English, we will start by enrolling them as visiting students, who can select courses themselves. We are looking into opportunities to employ Ukrainian refugees in collaboration with private Danish foundations, among others. On top of this, we have many indications from staff and students who want to help. For example Studenterhuset who are ready to provide a meeting place for Ukrainian, Russian, Danish and international students.

But there is a dilemma

Cutting our scientific connections is not without dilemmas. For is it not precisely the universities that form the opposition in Russia? According to University World News, 6,000 Russian researchers had signed a declaration against the war – before the censorship removed it from the Internet.

This courageous action contrasts with the curious statement from the Association of Russian Rectors, who expressed support for the war and emphasised the “special duty to instil patriotism in young people”. Such attitudes only underline the need for an unambiguous reaction. Not as a permanent punishment of Russian colleagues, but as ‘a signal to think’, as the young Ukrainian physicists Mykhailo and Tetiana said.

What else can the university do? Be a university, you could say. For there are no limits to what free and open science can achieve. This goes for the UCPH scholars who put into perspective what the media say about everything from Russian self-understanding to geopolitics and who can add nuances to the fixed angles that some reporters apply to their stories.

And it goes for the scholars who translate and reinforce dissident voices in Russia and Belarus. Take associate professor in Russian Tine Roesen, who last year introduced author and dissident Svetlana Alexievich when she was awarded the Sonning Prize at UCPH. Alexievich, writing testimonies of power abuse and maltreatment of people in the Soviet Union. Books that, unfortunately, are all too topical.

Today’s constant flood of breaking news and war zone photos are appalling. So: Be there for each other. Also for the students and colleagues from Russia who are just as appalled. Significantly, Tetiana and Mykhailo were invited to give their personal account by physics professor Eugene Polzik, who was born and raised in Russia, came to the US in the 1980s as a stateless political refugee, became an American citizen, worked at the California Institute of Technology, ended up at UCPH and became a Danish citizen. This small account speaks volumes about the transcendental qualities of science that work against polarisation between people