28. April 2022

Solidarity and Support Solidarity and Support: The University of Bonn has a centralized location for refugees to find aid

The University of Bonn has a centralized location for refugees to find aid

Russia’s attack on a neighboring country, the sovereign nation of Ukraine, has awoken anger and disgust the world over. The war is impacting all areas of life, including at universities. The University of Bonn has quickly put together a variety of different offerings to aid the displaced, and the solidarity shown by the university community has been incredible. At the same time, cooperative projects with Russian institutions have been put on ice for now.


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When the war broke out, the University of Bonn immediately began exploring various ways it could provide assistance. It was clear that there would not only be a high number of refugees headed to Germany, but also that many would have an academic background. Those various sources of aid have now been collated on a central information page managed by the International Office. A hotline has also been established to offer a simple way for affected persons to find and draw on help. Roughly 120 students from Ukraine are currently enrolled at the University. A special set of streamlined examination regulations needed to be established for them, with information about financial and mental health support bundled for easier access. These include tips on support points outside of the University to find help for the displaced, such as finding housing for their families.


Support for language learning


At the same time, the University is preparing to enroll displaced students and scientists. Language is of course an issue, as students who wish to continue their studies at the University of Bonn will need language skills at an appropriate academic level. To ease this issue, the University established a special set of German classes timed for the start of the semester. The first students are already starting the process of learning the language of Goethe.

Support for language learning for recent immigrants is also at the heart of the “MitSprache” module from the Faculty of Arts, provided by the section for Intercultural Communication and Multilingual Research in cooperation with the Caritas Association for the City of Bonn. The module was developed in 2016 based on strong demand from students interested in helping integrate refugees. As of summer semester 2021, the module was opened to students of all faculties.

The University of Bonn already has a wide range of experience in supporting researchers under threat: it was a founding member of the German chapter of the worldwide Scholars at Risk network and for years has actively supported threatened academics forced to leave their home countries due to the risk of violence or persecution. As part of that work, for example, the University provides information about funding offers from the EU, the DAAD, and other agencies.


Cooperation with Russia on ice


The University has elected to stand in solidarity with its fellow German academic institutions in the decision to suspend all cooperations with Russian partner institutions, meaning financial transfers have been put on ice and no further projects will be initiated. Dr. Birgit Ulrike Münch, Vice Rector for International Affairs, explains what this means for the University of Bonn in concrete terms: “Looked at in the grand scheme, only a few of our international cooperations are with Russia. We have been in discussions with four universities about cooperative agreements at the university and faculty levels. Furthermore there are roughly ten third-party funded projects in which Russian partners are involved.”


The outbreak of the Ukraine war has given rise to many questions and created an enduring need for clarification and information in the public. The University of Bonn is home to numerous experts researching these issues from various perspectives—from international law and international relations to the politics of raw materials. Many have made themselves available as contacts to the media since the start of the crisis, and have shown tremendous dedication to providing thoughtful answers to questions and interviews from the press. One central role in this effort comes from the Center for Advanced Security, Strategic and Integration Studies (CASSIS), which has published an extensive dossier featuring numerous expert opinions about the Russian attack on Ukraine and its geopolitical impact.


Numerous events to show solidarity


Shortly after the war broke out, Bonn students called for a demonstration in the Hofgarten to protest against violence in eastern Europe. That evening featured a striking symbol of solidarity, with the facade of the University Main Building lit up in the Ukraine's blue and yellow colors.

“Give Peace a Chance!” could be heard on March 20 from the University Main Building along the Rhine Promenade and down to the campus of the United Nations. Roughly 2,500 Bonners formed a human chain of singers to express their support for the people in Ukraine. The action was initiated by the International Choir at the University of Bonn, together with the International Students Department of the General Students’ Committee (AStA). The event was filmed to ensure that it will be remember in the days to come.

The Universitätsgesellschaft Bonn (UGB) called upon its members and third parties to join in a donation campaign under the motto “Help Ukraine.” The donations are earmarked by the UGB to help international students and researchers whose financial livelihoods have been ruined by the war in Ukraine. Support will be given for ongoing living expenses and to allow studies or research to be continued. “Every cent counts and will be put to good use locally,” the organizers wrote in their appeal.

Together for Ukraine
Together for Ukraine © CC0
Eine Menschenkette durch die Stadt.
Eine Menschenkette durch die Stadt. - Rund 2500 Menschen hatten sich zwischen der Bonner Universität und der Villa Hammerschmidt am Rheinufer versammelt. © Niklas Schröter / Uni Bonn
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