Utrecht University Fund starts campaign to help students from Russia and Ukraine

A Ukrainian flag hanging out a IBB window. Photo: DUB

Last week, the Utrecht University Fund started a crowdfunding campaign to support UU students who are experiencing financial difficulties because of the war. The UU Fund hopes to raise 60,000 euros for what it calls an "emergency fundraiser".

"We’ve been hearing that students from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are finding it harder and harder to access their funds because of the war. That's money they need for their living expenses or to pay their rent", says Robbert Jan Feunekes of the University Fund. The university itself is also investigating the extent to which it can do something about the problems these students and staff members are facing. Especially considering that, as citizens of countries outside the EU/EEA, most of them pay the institutional tuition fees, which are much higher than the tuition paid by Dutch and European students. 

Kremlin victims
"First, we considered having all the university funds in the Netherlands join forces", Feunekes explains. "Eventually we ended up choosing to let each university decide for itself what to do. Eindhoven, for example, has started a fundraiser, with the university fund and the fund contributing 100,000 euros to it. The University of Amsterdam also has its own campaign, which has raised some 70,000 euros so far". The Utrecht University Fund has not yet made its own contribution to the fundraiser. "We want to see how things will go first. But we’re not ruling out a donation of our own".

The UU Fund is going to support not only students from Ukraine, but also those from Russia and Belarus, as the university policy is not to let these students fall victim to the Kremlin's politics.

Student associations help as well
The structure of the new fundraiser was inspired by the previous fund to support students affected by the coronavirus crisis, in which student counsellors assessed the applications and subsequently gave advice. The same procedure will be followed now. Feunekes isn’t familiar with the exact criteria, but he says the main goal is to check whether applicants can provide for themselves. It's not clear whether students from Russia and Belarus would have to oppose the war in their application. That's a dilemma, as they would risk not being able to return to their home country because of such an explicit statement.

The Utrecht-based student associations are eager to actively support the emergency fund. Principal Cas van Turnhout, from the Utrecht Student Corps, says: "We’re approaching all the associations to contribute one euro per member. USC, UVSV and Veritas have already pledged to do so, and the other associations have responded positively as well". In addition, the associations will create a joint poster and encourage members to set up their own campaigns to support the fund.

On Wednesday, March 16, the fund counted over 7,000 euros worth of donations.