A fundraising appeal has been launched by UHI Inverness to help a Ukrainian university continue to educate its students amid the devastation of war.
The staff and students at the Ukrainian National Forestry University (UNFU) in Lviv have suffered the loss of colleagues, friends and family, and are continuing to work and learn despite the disruption of constant nearby missile strikes and power blackouts.
The Scottish School of Forestry (SSF) based at UHI Inverness’s Balloch campus is in the process of formalising a lasting partnership with the UNFU to provide teaching, outreach and financial support.
One of its most pressing needs is upgraded heating and power to ensure classes can continue in the winter months, and the SSF has launched a new appeal website page to raise €85,300 (£73,000) in donations to replace the damaged system and purchase heat pumps and solar powered generators.
There are also plans to set up online seminars involving lecturers, students and industry experts from both Lviv and Inverness to share skills and information about the forestry sectors in both countries.
The UNFU, the only forestry and wood technology provider in the country, has adapted its teaching to provide hybrid learning to allow its students to attain valuable qualifications in difficult circumstances.
Many of its students are taught online because there are not enough shelters for all of them on campus.
More than 40 employees and students at UNFU are currently in the Armed Forces.
Forty-two-year-old Yuriy Dadak, Associate Professor of the Department of Sawing Technologies, Carpentry and Wooden Construction Products, died in battle in April 2022.
A further six people from the university have died in recent months.
Mykola Borys, Vice Rector for Educational Work and International Relations at UNFU, said:
“The educational process is regularly interrupted due to power outages and the massive destruction of Ukrainian energy infrastructure.
“The university organises on-campus studies with anxiety and fears due to security reasons.
“Lviv, like other Ukrainian cities, experiences constant attacks by Russian missiles and drones.
“The last deadly attack took place on July 6 at a distance of 1000 meters from the UNFU and took the lives of 10 city residents, and more than 40 people were injured.
“Therefore, classes are constantly interrupted by air raids alarms, during which students and faculty members are forced to go to the shelters.
“Like many other state institutions, UNFU today faces financial difficulties, as a result of which the university is unable to invest in infrastructure and update the heating systems as well as renewing and repairing the shelters.
“For the functioning of the university and ensuring work in the new winter semester, it is extremely important to have alternative sources of energy to operate the heating systems.
“Looking to the future, UNFU staff and students see uncertainty, and therefore we ask for help and support of the university in this difficult time.
“The partnership, moral and financial support, assistance with equipment and materials is an extremely important contribution to the support of forestry education and science in Ukraine.”
Dr Euan Bowditch, a lecturer at SSF, has been instrumental in developing the relationship between the two forestry institutions.
“When contacted about partnering with the UNFU, there was no question that we should help and build a lasting relationship with the institution.
“Many of us at SSF had been looking for a way to help but were not quite sure how to show our support.
“It’s hard to imagine war, fighting, missile attacks and the constant threat of something happening at any time; not knowing when you wake up in the morning what the news might bring.
“I am absolutely amazed at the pragmatism and strength of the Ukraine people.
“We really want to help the UNFU in any way we can to continue their efforts to educate and teach.
“I hope that we raise the €85,000 very quickly and, beyond this, provide education and technological support to enhance their education delivery and develop shared resources, collaborations and a beneficial relationship that will support the UNFU in rebuilding after the war.
“This is a priority and SSF at UHI Inverness is committed to engaging the UK forestry industry and beyond to create a supportive network.”
Dr Bowditch said that as the only forestry educators in Ukraine, the sector will be placed in a particularly vulnerable position if new forestry professionals cannot be trained.
“Although we are currently focussing on immediate needs, our partnership will pursue long-term aims of annual summer school for students alternating between the UK and Ukraine, development of shared educational resources and collaboration to help bring more skilled foresters into the two sectors,” he said.
Professor Chris O’Neil, Principal and Chief Executive of UHI Inverness, said:
“At UHI Inverness we have been moved by the difficulties faced by our fellow colleagues and students in Ukraine.
“They are striving to provide quality education in war, and in times of adversity we as educators should assist and encourage these efforts.
“I am proud that here at UHI Inverness we have launched an appeal to support the UNFU.
“We understand the power of knowledge to transform lives and by coming together we can make a meaningful impact on the education of their students.
“Every contribution, no matter how big or small will make a real difference.”
For more details and instructions on how to donate visit to the appeal: https://www.inverness.uhi.ac.uk/scottish-school-of-forestry/fundraising-appeal-for-ukrainian-national-forestry-university/