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Air raid sirens during exams and working in subways – teaching continues in war-torn Ukraine

13 Jul 2022 | Advance HE At Advance HE’s Teaching and Learning Conference 2022, a special panel session took place with academics from Ukraine where they explained how they’ve continued to teach through the crisis.

If there was one session not to be missed at this year’s Teaching and Learning Conference, it was this one. A poignant and heartfelt discussion of what teaching is like in the middle of a warzone, a set of circumstances difficult to imagine for most people, thankfully.

We were honoured and privileged to be able to welcome Dr Anastasia Yakovenko, Dr Olga Yashenkova, Dr Kateryna Yeremieieva, Dr Mykola Tregub, Dr Olena Orzhel and Dr Kateryna Tryma to the conference and they explained the monumental challenges they have had to overcome in the past few months in order to make sure their students have continued to receive the high quality teaching they deserve.

Dr Yakovenko explained how students were eager to return to studying as soon as communication was possible again. She said: “The city was occupied by Russian forces, meaning that communication and teaching was cut off. When I could communicate with students again, they decided to restart studying. The psychological impact was difficult but education has become an important link for the community.”

If you can offer assistance, please contact the panel organiser and facilitator, Kathy Wright:

Thank you in advance for your support.

Watch the full session from the T&L Conference 2022 on the Advance HE Youtube channel here.

She also said that the shift to remote and hybrid learning models during Covid-19 made the transition easier, as lots of materials were already available to students online, and for those who did not have internet access, work was texted directly to them.

Dr Yashenkova also said that new innovative teaching methods were vital due to the fast moving situation: “The situation could change at any time, some students struggled with the internet connection and air raid sirens went off during exams. All the new innovative teaching techniques used were very effective. Listening to and supporting student voices is vital.

“Since different students come from different regions, it was impossible to find one single solution. Some prefer to work individually with distance learning, others wanted to feel more involved with the learning community with collaboration.”

Dr Yeremieieva agreed and said there was a need to be as flexible as possible due to different students’ circumstances: “In extreme cases, I had to phone students to give them the assistance they needed. Some students are doing their work in the subways, some on evacuation trains.

“We needed to be as flexible as possible, with lectures and assessments done in a variety of ways with different formats so that everyone can access them.”

Dr Tregub and Dr Tryma explained the impact that the invasion had had on their students, and how this made studying and assessments extremely difficult for students mentally.

Dr Tryma said: “Students were shook, some didn’t have normal connections and some had lost their families, making the process of creating exams really hard. Exams under the condition of war is very difficult, but the students were very motivated. Some things are going on as normal, allowing the students to keep on and continuing to function.”

Dr Tregub said: “The first month of the invasion was completely challenging and it was hard to know what to do.”

He also said they had received great support from the Minister for Education and local government who installed new internet connections and emergency electricity lines at the university, without which teaching would not have been possible.

Dr Orzhel closed the session by saying she believed that universities could continue showing their worth to society, despite the war and that they had had a responsibility to do so.

“It’s time for our universities to display the power of knowledge, demonstrate how many problems we can solve when working together. Universities have to focus on management skills and governance and need to really focus on social humanitarian issues and the people who are going to win the war for Ukraine.”

The final question was asked on behalf of the HE community: ‘What can we do to help the HE sector in Ukraine?’

Here is a summary of answers from our panel:

Many university facilities have been and are being destroyed or are now located in occupied territory so help in providing access to study materials which could be made available to students on university online platforms would be greatly appreciated. A special appeal was made by two of the panel for assistance in supporting remote laboratory work for their students.

Before the start of the war Ukrainian HE had been working hard to build international links in teaching and in research. Collaborations with European and UK universities and sector bodies were flourishing and the panel expressed a desire to share experiences, restart projects and also build new relationships which would combat feelings of isolation both in students and staff, and create the foundations for rebuilding the HE sector post conflict.

Addressing the future of HE in Ukraine, universities will have a role in enabling community cohesion and inclusion, working with war veterans, the wounded and the displaced to rebuild lives and working with local businesses to rebuild the economy. Ukraine HE can carve out a key role in this process which will require strong leadership and management skills, further development of teaching skills and developing expertise in learning how to cope with trauma and other psychological problems.

Ukrainian HE will need to work alongside partner organisations and experts to create ‘education without borders’ for its people.



Dr Anastasiia Yakovenko, Lecturer in Mathematics, Bogdan Khmelnitsky Melitopol State Pedagogical University, Ukraine.

Dr Olga Yashenkova, Associate Professor, Department of English Philology and Intercultural Communication, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine.

Dr Kateryna Yeremieieva, History and Politology, Department of History and Linguistics, Ukrainian State University of Railway Transport, Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Dr Mykola Tregub, Vice-Rector for Perspective Development, Dnipro University of Technology, Ukraine.

Dr Olena Orzhel, senior researcher at the Institute of Higher Education, National Academy of Educational Sciences of Ukraine.

Dr Kateryna Tryma, PhD in Political Sciences, Senior Researcher at the Institute of Higher Education, National Academy of Educational Sciences of Ukraine.



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