University of Leicester agrees five-year roadmap of support for twinned university in Ukraine

The University of Leicester and Kremenchuk Mykhailo Ostohradskyi National University (KrNU) in Ukraine have agreed a roadmap for mutual support and co-operation that will assist in the rebuilding of the country over the next five years.

Building on a twinning agreement signed by the two institutions in 2022, the new roadmap details areas of collaboration and demonstrates a commitment to supporting Higher Education in Ukraine and solidarity with institutions affected by conflict in the country.

New joint projects will help build resilience into Ukraine’s energy network, while access to research data, research facilities and laboratories at Leicester will provide a safe haven for joint research during the war.

Dr Aldo Rona, from the University of Leicester School of Engineering, said: “COVID-19 had shown our School the adverse effects that limited access to laboratories, offices, lecture theatres had on our research and on our students. We overcame this by developing effective distance learning methods, virtual classrooms, on-line PhD supervision, and more computer-based research. This made us ready to support KrNU’s enduring challenge of delivering higher education in the current crisis. 

“I found the can-do attitude of KrNU staff remarkable and their unwavering commitment to supporting the next generation of students and scientists is truly commendable. The five-year research plan puts our newly acquired blended learning and internet-enabled research skills to good use and looks beyond the current crisis towards realising with KrNU a more inclusive and accessible trans-national higher education, dedicated to the growth of sustainable technology for the common good.”

Professor Mykhaylo Zagirnyak, Rector of KrNU, said: “The result of the Summer School, which exceeded all expectations, was a detailed roadmap for five-year cooperation, which covered not only aerospace, bioengineering, and artificial intelligence fields for cooperation, but also Power Industry, Economic, Academic Mobility, Digitization, and Gender Equality Partnership. This approach made it possible to involve representatives of all the main structural divisions of the KrNU in cooperation. The proof of the effectiveness of this approach was the fact that immediately after the end of the Summer School the active teamwork of scientists from both universities began and continue to search for grant opportunities (Horizon Europe, Innovate Ukraine, the NATO Science for Peace and Security and British Council Programmes), for the effective roadmap implementation.”

Dr Aldo Rona, Professor Ljlijana Marjanovic-Halburd, Professor Mykhaylo Zagirnyak and Geoff Green at the joint Summer School.

The twinning agreement, established by the University of Leicester and KrNU in September 2022, aimed to preserve and promote the human research capital of KrNU by jointly developing a five-year plan of research collaboration, with specific war risk-mitigation actions and a strong post-war growth trajectory. The new roadmap will be adapted into an Addendum to the Twinning Activities and will extend the five-year collaboration scope beyond research. It outlines joint strategies for student focussed activities, faculty and staff-oriented activities, technical and material support, resources and equipment, capacity building activities, and communication.

Upcoming initiatives include collaborations by their respective business schools in forecasting and mitigating the effects of the current crisis. The engineering schools are developing technology and models to support Ukraine’s energy recovery and for making the Ukraine energy network more resilient and ultimately share the UK and the Ukraine joint long-term vision for a carbon-neutral national energy network. 

A new generation of PhD researchers trained as part of this collaboration will help rebuild Ukraine as a resilient, prosperous, sustainable, and democratic country. PhD projects have been risk-mitigated against the war effect by design, by focusing on software-based projects that are inherently mobile, on easy to move experiments. 

The twinning agreement has been hugely successful, with collaboration online and in-person allowing staff at both institutions to share knowledge and expertise, hold bilateral talks and visits their respective research laboratories. Collaboration efforts culminated in their first joint Summer School hosted by the University of Leicester in July 2023, in which academics and researchers in aerospace, bioengineering, and artificial intelligence showcased their work to find synergic and parallel research interests among staff from the Universities of Kremenchuk and Leicester.