The Russian-Ukrainian conflict that has been going on for a week has immediate repercussions on international mobility and the permanence of students established in Russia or Ukraine. Despite the restrictions imposed, higher education institutions are somehow organizing the repatriation of French students.
In the context created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, February 24, France has asked French citizens to leave these two Eastern European countries as soon as possible. “It is strongly recommended that French citizens, whose presence and that of their family is not essential in Russia, take steps to leave the country through the links that still exist”, reads on the website of the French Embassy in Russia. Among these nationals, some are students in the context of international mobility.
French higher education institutions reacted quickly. This is particularly the case at EEIGM (European School of Materials Engineering), Lorraine INP’s engineering school. “We had four fourth-year students in an academic semester at the National University of Research and Technology MISIS in Moscow. With the University of Lorraine’s department of international relations, we made the decision to repatriate these students for their safety. They were still worried about the situation,” explains Yves Granjon, director of the engineering school.
After the closure of airspace between Russia and the European Union, organizing this repatriation was not easy. The engineering students took a train from the Russian capital to St. Petersburg before taking a bus to Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, and then catching a flight to Paris.
Financial aid and psychological support
As of Sunday, February 27, the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne has requested the immediate return of its staff and students present in Russia. She claims to have taken “all necessary measures to ensure the safety of her students and staff affected by the conflict in Ukraine”. A specific communication procedure has been implemented to support the return of people living in Ukraine and Russia. The university is in contact with them and offers financial aid and psychological support to students who request it.
“Right now, of the nearly 20 students traveling to Russia and Ukraine, all have returned or are returning, except for those who live there. The university helped them so that they could go to a safe country and then return to France”, assures the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Student mobility to Ukraine has also been cancelled.
Jean Moulin-Lyon University 3 strongly recommended that its eight exchange students in Ukraine return to France. “We followed the Quai d’Orsay’s recommendations to leave the country, but it’s everyone’s freedom”, explains the university. Two students so far have decided to stay put. The university’s rector announced on Monday that the establishment would take care of the repatriation of students who do not have the financial means to return. However, it is still very difficult to find plane tickets to reach France from Ukraine.
students of‘Lumière-Lyon 2 University are on exchange in Russia. The establishment contacted most of them and is working on the repatriation of those who wish to.
Some students in Russia prefer not to return
Some students have not yet returned to France. At age 23, Charles is a third-year engineering student at the Ecole des Arts et Métiers. He is currently doing a double degree at Moscow-Bauman State Technical University. “I’m studying industrial logistics. I’ve been there for almost seven months and I already regret leaving, I still had a lot to discover!”
“My French friends are wondering about me, but I reassure them, he continues. In terms of security, there is nothing to worry about in Moscow at the moment. The atmosphere is quite calm but heavy. You can see people coming together to express their disagreement with the war in Ukraine. It is mainly young people who have turned against President Vladimir Putin.”
“My double degree with Russia has been cancelled”
Whether he likes it or not, the student engineer prepares his return to France. “I would have stayed until things were sorted out. I don’t think this repatriation is necessary, but it’s not a decision that comes from me, but from my school. My double degree was therefore cancelled. I understand your position and your responsibilities. I sincerely hope that agreements between universities will be re-established. This type of exchange is perfect for giving students a more accurate view of what Russia is all about.”
Currently, some higher education institutions are considering suspending their partnerships with Russian partner institutions. In a press release published this Wednesday, March 2, ESSCA, the higher school of commercial sciences in Angers, announces that it is “temporarily suspending its partnerships with Russian universities until the return to normal”.