Milton Keynes-based Open University launches support package to help Ukraine

The Open University (OU) has launched a raft of measures aimed at helping students and Ukrainians fleeing the war and arriving in the UK.

These include financial support and assistance for existing OU students, a funding lifeline to potential students from Ukraine now living in the UK, as well as free online learning and partnerships with wider support networks.

A key part of the OU’s support package is extensive online free resources for Ukrainians on its popular platform OpenLearn, with a further free-to-learn cultural and language course being created aimed at those housing, caring for or working with Ukrainians.

The OU support package includes:

  •  Fee waivers for existing students from Ukraine
  • Free OpenLearn resources dedicated to supporting Ukrainians now living in the UK, including free language training and mental and wellbeing support
  • The launch, later this Summer, of a free online culture and language course to help UK families hosting Ukrainians and those working with or caring for them, developed by leading academics
  • An opportunity to apply for one of 12 Sanctuary Scholarships amounting to £240,000, complete with study starter pack and access to careers and employability services
  • Working with partners to provide further assistance through targeted projects in the HE sector
  • Open University job roles posted on the dedicated sites for refugees and Talent Beyond Boundaries
  • A commitment to continued working with local and national partners, including Milton Keynes Council, the Department for Education, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and Universities UK International on how best to support refugees arriving into the UK as well as supporting the Ukrainian HE sector, their academics and students

Vice-Chancellor Prof Tim Blackman said: “We are appalled by the situation in Ukraine and the huge impact it is having on so many lives and want to support in the best way we can, by providing free online learning, scholarships and financial assistance for Ukrainians as they seek refuge in the UK, as well as educational resources for UK host families.

“We believe that accessible education is a powerful tool for improving people’s lives and will continue to mobilise our resources across the University to show our support for Ukrainians.”

Minister for Higher and Further Education Michelle Donelan said: “Our world leading universities have always been underpinned by the core values of freedom and liberty, and so it is great to see how many have been standing united with Ukraine by throwing open their doors to students displaced by this terrible war.

“These initiatives from The Open University are a fantastic way to support those fleeing armed conflict or persecution in their home nation who need help rebuilding their lives.

“Separately, this government has provided up to £4m for institutions to support Ukrainian students who may be facing hardship. We are currently working with universities in the UK to explore what support can be given to Ukrainian universities in order to help them continue teaching their students remotely alongside where we can go further in ensuring Ukrainian students can access finance to support their studies with more information on this in due course.”

Ukrainian Culture & Language Course Lead, Mirjam Hauck, Associate Head of School of Languages and Applied Linguistics at the OU said: “We hope this will be a really valuable free course and that a community will develop while learners progress through the course and share experiences and insights. As well as learning the language, course participants will find out about what Ukraine was like before the invasion, its geography, healthcare and education systems, history, and ethnic and religious diversity.

“Ukrainian will be taught via the medium of English, but some key information, such as differences between the healthcare and education systems in the UK and Ukraine, will also be available in Ukrainian, so it can be shared directly with Ukrainian friends.”