‘Untrue’: University body says European unis have not been expelling Russian students

russian students
France Universités also issued a statement on March 1, 2022, saying French universities have not been expelling Russian students amid the war. Source: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP

European universities have not been expelling Russian students amid the Russia-Ukraine war, said the European University Association (EUA). In a tweet, EUA, which represents over 800 universities and national rectors’ conferences in 48 European countries, said “it is untrue and EUA hasn’t received any report of potential expulsions by any of its members”.

France Universités also issued a statement on March 1, 2022, saying French universities have not been expelling Russian students amid the war.

“France Universités forcefully denies the allegations of some Russia-operated media attempting to smear the reputation of French universities,” it said.

“French academia takes pride in its age-long tradition of welcoming students in the best possible manner, making no difference between them and their own students the moment they set foot on the French soil. Russian students are no exception and do not have to pay for the vagaries of their own government, to which they may also fall victim.”

They add that no French university has carried out any discriminatory or exclusionary action against them, or has even contemplated doing so.

“On the contrary, every possible step is being considered, in close concertation with the appropriate local authorities, in order to provide them, their Ukranian fellow-students or all those impacted by the current conflict in Europe, with the necessary resources should they be forced to extend their stay,” it said.

The Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, Tatyana Moskalkova has posted statements on the commission’s official website appealing to EU universities to stop “racial discrimination”. Source: Mikhail Klimentyev / Sputnik / AFP

Russia claims its students are being expelled from universities abroad

Science|Business reported that Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova has allegedly said that Russian students are being “unreasonably expelled from educational institutions, not allowed to attend classes, and morally persecuted” in an example of “racial discrimination”.

The report said Moskalkova didn’t detail specific examples, but cited concerned calls from Russian parents. She has reportedly written to a range of human rights bodies in Europe, including a few specific institutions.

Moskalkova was quoted saying on her Instagram page following a meeting with Russian Minister of Science and Higher Education Valery Falkov, via Interfax, that the ministry is taking unprecedented measures to protect the rights of Russian students who have been expelled from universities in France, the Czech Republic, Belgium, and other European states in connection with the situation in Ukraine.

“We have agreed to conduct this important work jointly,” she was quoted saying.

Separately, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced that the university will be severing ties with Russian university Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech).

“This step is a rejection of the actions of the Russian government in Ukraine. We take it with deep regret because of our great respect for the Russian people and our profound appreciation for the contributions of the many extraordinary Russian colleagues we have worked with,” said the university.

In a tweet, Skoltech said it is “ready to enrol Russian students facing impairment of their rights or being expelled from international universities due to the current geopolitical situation”.

The European University Association (EUA) the umbrella body of Universities France and individual institutions had to clarify themselves with a statement on Twitter stating that they have no plans to expel Russians. Source: Ludovic Marin / AFP

European universities respond to allegations of Russian students getting the boot

European universities have swiftly responded to allegations that they have been expelling Russian students. In Belgium, KU Leuven’s rector Luc Sels took to Twitter to disprove the claims made by the Russians.

In a statement, Vilnius University also quashed the “disinformation” about Russian-speaking students expelled from European universities, stating that “discrimination based on nationality will not be tolerated.”

Rector of VU Prof. Rimvydas Petrauskas said: “Vilnius University condemns Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine but will never impose sanctions on the nationality of students or teachers. We are an open university that supports and nurtures democracy, where everyone who recognizes academic freedom of thought can find a place.”

TU Berlin also announced that they have suspended all cooperations with Russia.

“The university also offers advice for all its members in dealing with Russian cooperations and partners. Students and doctoral candidates enrolled in joint PhD and double degree programs can continue to study for a qualification awarded by TU Berlin,” it said.

So far, only the US has been the only one that has made calls to expel Russian students. Eric Swalwell, the California Democrat representative proposed “kicking out” Russian students in an attempt to condemn the invasion in Ukraine.

Anxiety for Russian students

The Russia-Ukraine war has sparked anxiety for some Russian students abroad.

A Russian student studying at the University of British Columbia (UBC) told CBC that he is unable to access funds from his parents in Moscow for days due to sanctions against Russia, which include cutting off major Russian banks from the rest of the world.

“Right now, I’m financially cut off from home,” said Artemi Meshcherin. “Unfortunately, many Russian people, including Russian students at UBC and in Canada, have to be facing challenges based on the decisions that the government made.”

For Russian students overseas, the mere threat of expulsion places them in a vulnerable position to convince others to separate state propaganda from individual choice.