“This is a phenomenal initiative. There is great commitment at our University, we got things moving quickly back in the spring and interest has been sustained since then,” explains Tora Holmberg, Vice-Rector of Uppsala University and contact person for the initiative.

The first scholarships were granted to researchers from Ukraine in the spring, and the initiative is now being extended with scholarships being granted continuously in line with received applications.

“Uppsala University is a member of Scholars at Risk (SAR), which works to support researchers at risk across the globe. We therefore have a broad commitment across the organisation, but also administrative processes in place,” notes Holmberg.

“An important foundation is to process applications quickly and not to pit applicants against each other. If someone fulfils the criteria we’ve set, they can be considered. Above all, they must be engaged in the research environment.”

Departments must receive applicants

To be granted a scholarship, there must be a department that can receive the researchers. There are also certain basic criteria – they must be covered by the Temporary Protection Directive, have a doctoral education in a relevant field and their research must be relevant for the new environment.

“The scholarships enable us to offer them a refuge, but also to continue their research and become part of a research environment. It also creates opportunities to form new networks for those environments,” adds Holmberg.

The new funding will provide 20 scholarships worth SEK 150,000 each, for stays of five months.

Arrived in Sweden in April

Yulia Razmetaeva was one of the first to be granted a scholarship in May 2022. Along with her two children, she fled from Kharkiv to Stockholm via Poland shortly after the war broke out. She made contact relatively quickly with Patricia Mindus, Professor of Philosophy at Uppsala University.

It turned out that research was being conducted in her field at the Department of Law in Uppsala – a project on AI, democracy and human dignity led by Anna Sara Lind and a project on AI and public sector officials led by Sandra Friberg.

She is now working on both those projects.

“My own research looks at expectations of AI and how AI is changing the human experience in the public and private spheres. It’s truly fantastic that my research fits so well into these two projects.”

Maintains contact with colleagues

Meanwhile, Razmetaeva maintains close contact with her university in Ukraine via Zoom and other digital tools. Her colleagues are currently spread across various regions of Ukraine and other countries.

“This is almost like the situation we had during the pandemic, when we organised our work using digital tools such as Zoom and Google Classes. We have access to specific modules for remote teaching.”

The scholarship is now over, but Razmetaeva has received research grants from the Wallenberg Foundations and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which will suffice for some time to come. She has also solved her housing issue, initially through her own contacts and then via the University’s housing exchange, and her children go to school in Uppsala.

“I’ve also started learning Swedish. It’s not that difficult for me since I already speak several different languages,” she notes.

The University has its own funds

Uppsala University is unique in paying for this type of scholarship by using its own funds in the form of donation funds.

“As essentially no other university in Sweden has this type of opportunity, we have had a lot of attention and a huge number of applications,” Holmberg points out.

The idea is for researchers to have time during the five months of the scholarship to apply for research grants that will allow them to stay longer in Sweden.

“This offers a more stable platform for continuing to apply for ongoing funding or work in Sweden. The hope then is that they will be able to return to Ukraine, even if things are not looking that bright right now. It’s therefore important for them to be able to continue their work in the meantime,” adds Holmberg.