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Lessons from the UK higher education sector’s response to the invasion of Ukraine

by Susie Hills, Paula Sanderson, Emily Owen, Beth Adams | Mar 14, 2023 | News

Project Background and Information

The invasion of Ukraine on 24th February 2022 saw UK universities introduce extraordinary initiatives of support, aid, and partnership for Ukrainian institutions and their communities. One year on, as the devastating conflict continues, we are seeking to understand the initiatives implemented, as well as their value and impacts.

The UK higher education sector’s response was truly unprecedented. It evidences the extraordinary power of the sector when it mobilises rapidly. The support offered to Ukraine by universities, their funders, and the government should be commended. It is now, following the first anniversary of the start of the invasion, that we reflect on the lessons learned and how the sector might be better positioned to support future, and ongoing, crises.

Universities UK International (UUKi) has commissioned Halpin to review the landscape of crisis responses across the sector. This research will shape an understanding of the policies and practices that can strengthen the crisis response capacity of UK institutions. The project’s objectives have been outlined below.

This project is funded by Research England through their £5m grant to Universities UK International supporting the UK-Ukraine Twinning Initiative.


Research objectives

UUKi seeks to address a gap in the sector’s understanding – between the initial support offered to Ukrainian universities and their communities and the present impacts of those activities. Beyond this, the aims of the project are:

  • To provide a descriptive overview of key elements of the sector’s response and their perceived value and impacts to date,
  • To identify factors that have enabled and facilitated different types of response, and those limiting the capacity of institutions and stakeholders to engage,
  • To develop a framework of policy and practice options for future responses and the conditions needed for effective and impactful deployment,
  • To make recommendations to universities, funders, and government to ensure all stakeholders are better positioned to offer crisis support in the future.


Review timeline

After 5 months of consultation and research, the review team will present its final project deliverables in July 2023, including the publication of a report and a project team-hosted webinar. We have added responses to frequently asked questions below.

The following timeline has been proposed and agreed for the review:

March 2023

  • Introductory meeting with steering group
  • Request for information
  • Desk research commences

March – May 2023

  • Interviews and focus groups begin

May 2023

  • Data analysis
  • Emerging findings meeting

May – June 2023

  • 8-10 in-depth case studies created
  • Framework of best practice and recommendations developed

June – July 2023

  • Draft report shared for review
  • Short summative report published
  • Longer technical report published
  • Framework of best practice presented
  • Participation from case study institutions invited

July 2023

  • Webinar hosted by project team, open to the sector

July 2024

  • Impact review conducted, one year after project completion


The review team

The review team for this particular project have been assembled based on their experience, expertise, and skills relating to the review deliverables. Full biographies are linked below.


Consultation and sharing your comments

If you have any questions, comments, or contributions regarding this review, please contact emily.owen@halpinpartnership.com


About Halpin

Halpin Partnership (Halpin) is a specialist management consultancy founded to meet the needs of the UK higher education sector. Halpin places high-quality research at the heart of all projects and draws on the experience of a team of Consulting Fellows, each with their own unique areas of expertise, at senior and cross-sector levels. The full team deployed on this project can be found below.

Halpin was appointed by Universities UK in February 2023 to conduct a review into the UK higher education sector’s response to the invasion of Ukraine following a public and open tendering process.


Independent resources

We understand that discussions regarding the Ukraine conflict can be distressing for all involved, and endeavour to create supportive and psychologically safe environments for such conversations to take place.

If you require support or assistance of any kind, please refer to the below resources.

Universities UK International’s Ukraine webpages can also be accessed here.


Frequently asked questions

How was Halpin partnership selected?

  • Halpin was selected via a public Invitation to Tender process.

What experience does Halpin have of research projects?

Is the review independent?

  • Halpin is entirely independent of Universities UK and any other providers or universities that may be involved in the project. No conflicts of interest have been declared by the review team. Halpin will communicate with Universities UK via an assigned steering group, who will also provide access to relevant documentation and ensure all review deliverables are factually correct prior to publication.

Will the findings be published, and when?

  • The review project is due to end on 15th July. A published report will be made available after this date, subject to fact-checking and approval. Halpin will also host a webinar in July 2023.


Useful contacts

If you have any questions, please contact a member of the project team: