Universities in Japan and Taiwan open doors to Ukrainians

Despite their distance from the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, universities in Japan and Taiwan are stepping up to assist students from Ukraine in large numbers, with many institutions providing short term ‘exchanges’ and scholarships in line with Ukraine’s request not to spark a brain drain of Ukrainian talent that could become irreversible.

Japanese universities have begun to accept students from war-besieged Ukraine under humanitarian aid programmes. The rapid deployment of support for the war refugees is a first for the country’s higher education institutions and the process is supported by government and private funds.

Tohoku University, the country’s largest national university in the northeast of Japan, is setting guidelines for acceptance.

“This is the first experience to accept youth who are facing this emergency situation. We hope to accept them and give them a place that is free from anxiety,” said Hirohisa Miyamoto.

Miyamoto is in charge of the university’s international exchange programme that accepts about 3,000 students annually for its undergraduate and graduate programmes. He told University World News the university plans to provide financial support for Ukrainian students that will include their domestic flights to Sendai city to reach the university, as well as accommodation and tuition.

“If the students want their parents to accompany them, they will also be accepted and supported,” Miyamoto added.

A positive step in the curriculum

Miyamoto noted that the presence of Ukrainian students would stimulate discussions between Japanese and other foreign students on global issues and war. “I believe the impact of accepting students from Ukraine is a positive step in our curriculum that stresses discussion and exchange. They will also broaden the horizons especially of Japanese students who have not experienced war,” he said.

Currently the university will accept students who have some proficiency in English to join the one-year exchange programme that teaches Japanese language, politics, history and other subjects about Japan. The university has raised more than JPY2 million (US$15,000) for its fund to support the students, and that fund is growing, explained Miyamoto.

The Japanese government will provide financial support of up to JPY120,000 per month and applications are being accepted now. Public assistance will start from July.

A total of 31 universities including prominent private universities such as the International Christian University (ICU) and Waseda University are offering short-term placements for Ukrainian students after Japan opened its doors to refugees fleeing the Russian invasion. ICU said it will provide fee dormitory accommodation in addition to travel and living expenses.

A consortium to help fleeing students

The universities set up a consortium in early May called Pathways Japan and are cooperating with each other to allow as many students as possible to be accepted in Japan. Managed by a refugee support group, the consortium makes arrangements with universities and Japanese language schools to accept war-affected students.

The students must undergo a screening process including interviews and preference is based on their strength in English or Japanese language skills. Students must be single and currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate programme at a university in Ukraine.

Japan University of Economics in Fukuoka prefecture, southern Japan, has accepted 68 Ukrainian students who fled their country. Currently there are three exchange students studying subjects like business administration and Japanese culture. The university has employed a Ukrainian woman who can speak Japanese to act as an interpreter.

Kyoto University is planning to accept about 30 Ukrainian students while the University of Tokyo has set up an emergency humanitarian fund and is calling for donations on its website. As of April, the fund is JPY10.4 million.

Kyoto University of Advanced Science has also set up a fund calling for donations to help the Ukrainians with living costs. It said it has already provided tuition fee waivers. The institution’s engineering faculty teaches in English, which has attracted a large number of applicants from Ukraine. It has said it would accept around 30 – far more than the handful it originally expected, which meant it needed to raise more funds to support them.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, some 50 academic bodies in Japan including universities and academic societies released statements denouncing the invasion – seen as an unusually strong response from Japan’s academic community to a war overseas. Organisations condemning the invasion included the Science Council of Japan, the Japan Association of Private Universities and Colleges and the Japan Association of National Universities.

Elsewhere in Asia

Elsewhere, Taiwan’s Academia Sinica and the Ministry of Science and Technology set up the Taiwan Scholarships for Ukraine Students and Scholars’ platform in March to provide funding for fleeing Ukrainians to continue their studies or research in Taiwan.

In Taiwan, Tzu Chi University (TCU) in Hualien said in a statement last month it would fully sponsor the studies of 30 Ukrainian students and scholars under a special programme set up by the university to offer a safe study environment for Ukrainian youth.

The scheme would cover a dozen university and graduate students, 12 Chinese language learners and six scholars to allow them to continue their studies or research that was interrupted by the war, it said.

TCU President Ingrid Liu said the university would cover the costs of the airfare, tuition, accommodation and living expenses for the students from late May.

South Korean universities have also thrown open their scholarships for foreign students to Ukrainian applicants.

Mimi Leung in Taiwan contributed to this article.