A message from the Vice-Chancellor on the Ukraine crisis

Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Rama Thirunamachandran has expressed his support for the people of Ukraine and outlined what the University is doing to support its students, staff, and the wider community.

In a letter Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Canterbury Christ Church, Professor Rama Thirunamachandran said: 

“Dear colleagues, students, and friends, 

“We are all shocked by the scenes we see in Ukraine when we turn on the TV or radio each day. Our thoughts and prayers must go out to those bereaved and wounded in Ukraine, and to those fleeing or who have had their lives changed forever.

“We stand in solidarity with everyone in Ukraine, along with our staff and students who may have been directly affected by the situation. I am proud that the Ukrainian flag has been raised above Old Sessions House and Augustine House to show our ongoing support and solidarity. Weekly vigils are taking place at the Chapel and colleagues have also come together to record a song for Ukraine to further use our voice positively. 

“Whilst showing solidarity is important, I am also supporting our teams to ensure we also take practical steps to do what we can to help in the current circumstances. 

“Many will know that we are already members of Student Action for Refugees offering scholarships, bursaries and fee waivers for people who have claimed asylum in the UK. Any Ukrainian unaccompanied asylum-seeker children who go into in foster care in Kent and Medway will also be supported by the University through its programme of outreach support for children in care. Ukrainian refugees over the age of 18 will also be able to access free English classes at the University as part of our CELTA English Language teacher course. These opportunities are promoted via our contacts at the Kent Refugee Action Network.”

“We are doing whatever we can to provide support to those in our community who need it. At the outset of the invasion, we published information for staff and students as to how they can access direct support. We do not have any Ukrainian students but have also written directly to students from Russia and neighbouring countries to check on their well-being and follow up with a direct offer of support.  

“We have also encouraged staff and students to support the British Red Cross appeal, and were proud to support the efforts of Zara Uznova, a Housekeeping Team Leader, and the wider Estates and Facilities Team, who collected donations, including blankets, clothing and nappies, which they took to London where they have been sorted and will be on their way to the borders of Ukraine. 

“Behind the scenes, we are also part of an organisation called the Council for At Risk Academics (CARA) and stand ready to host academics whose lives may be in danger, as we have done in the past. In my role as Chair of the MillionPlus organisation, representing modern universities, I am also speaking with Vice Chancellors to see whether we are able to set up a similar scheme for students, whereby we may be able to take on Ukrainian students to continue their studies here in Canterbury, Medway and other parts of the UK. 

“And finally, as we expect the number of refugees fleeing war to increase, I am working with colleagues to see if there is a way that we can provide direct support – whether it be with CV-writing, employability support or language skills – to help refugees settle and find a fulfilling life in a new country.  

“These are only small steps, but they are important, practical ones that stand true to our values and purpose.  

“And as we continue to see division and conflict, it reminds us of the importance of our own community here in Canterbury and Medway. I am proud of the diverse, integrated and mutually-dependent community we have built at our University and it is important that this continues to shine through in all that we do – as staff, students and friends of the University. So, I hope you will join me in showing your support for Ukraine in whatever way you can, and continuing to show support, care and compassion for each other.” 

– Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Rama Thirunamachandran.