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Responding to the war in Ukraine – a message from the Provost

2 March 2022

A message to UCL staff and students from UCL's President & Provost, Dr Michael Spence

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There can be no one in our community who has not been distressed by the images and testimony coming out of the war in Ukraine. Our thoughts are with staff and students who have family and friends in Ukraine and the wider region and are now experiencing a terrible weight of anxiety and stress.

I want to reassure everyone that we are doing, and will continue to do, everything we can to assist and support members of our community who are directly affected by the conflict. You can see our current statement outlining guidance and support here, and this will be updated on an ongoing basis.

We have now contacted all students who were resident in Ukraine, Russia or Belarus at the start of the invasion, most of whom were Study Abroad students, to advise them to leave the region and offer help to do so, including arranging and covering the cost of travel, accommodation and subsistence. The majority have left or are in the process of leaving; a small number do not wish to leave and we remain in contact with them to offer all the support we can. Staff across UCL, and particularly in the Student Support and Wellbeing team, have worked heroically over the last week to respond to the crisis and we should all be proud of their work.

Some students may find it difficult to focus on their studies at this time and we are committed to supporting any student experiencing difficulties with their studies or assessments. We will also support students facing financial hardship as a result of the conflict.

We are also committed to supporting any staff members affected by the conflict. Our employee assistance programme Care First is available for emotional support, and I would encourage members of our community to talk to their line managers about any other support or flexibility we might be able to provide.

Departments and centres across UCL have strong research and knowledge exchange partnerships with Ukraine and those links will be vital if we are to help rebuild what is destroyed in the conflict. We are in touch with Cara – the charity which supports at risk academics – as well as our sector bodies to explore ways in which we can support refugee academics. We are developing these plans and will share more details soon.

At a time when so many of us are outraged by the actions of a government, it is important to remember that we are a global community in which no one represents anything other than themselves. I have been troubled to learn of a small number of personally directed attacks on some Russian members of our community. There can be no place at UCL for this kind of prejudice, and I hope everyone will stand against such incidents and call them out if they witness them via our Report + Support tool.

As much as we are appalled by the suffering of the Ukrainian people, so much are we inspired by their colossal bravery and defiance of spirit. This is a dark time for Europe but also one in which there has rarely been such a clear sense of united moral purpose. While the scars from this conflict will be lasting and painful, perhaps this evidence that we can act in defence of fundamental values so quickly, radically and in tandem, will also prove of resilient effect. For now, let us all hope for a speedy, peaceful and just resolution for Ukraine and all affected by this conflict.

Dr Michael Spence
UCL President & Provost

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