Posted Wednesday 12 April 2023
Ukrainian academics have been sharing first-hand experiences of the impacts of the ongoing war and their role as disaster management specialists with staff and students at Kingston University.
Their recent visit was part of a long-standing relationship between Kingston and the Lviv State University of Life Safety, a leading higher education institution in the field of human safety. Staff and student exchanges between the two universities have been taking place since 2016.
Staff from Kingston University's Department of Geography, Geology and the Environment hosted several academics from Lviv earlier this year, who delivered seminars to students on a range of topics relating to the war in their home country and their role in emergency response.
Among the scientists who spoke to the students were the rector of the Lviv State University of Life Safety, Professor Myroslav Koval, who outlined the challenges faced by Ukrainian rescue teams, and Associate Professor Dmytro Kobylkin, who discussed how the war was affecting rural life and the Chornobyl nuclear power plant.
Lecturer Inna Onoshko outlined the impact missile attacks were having on Ukraine's critical infrastructure. Ms Onoshko, who teaches in the Department of Supervisory-preventative Activities and Fire Automation at Lviv State University and is a lieutenant colonel in the civil protection service, said the opportunities provided through the partnership were hugely valuable to the Ukrainian academics. "This visit was my first to the United Kingdom and enabled me to learn about different approaches and methods of teaching and how staff communicate with their students," she said.
During her address, Ms Onoshko reflected on some of the day-to-day challenges the country was facing. "We only have six hours of electricity in our homes each day, so across Ukraine we have set up places where people can gather that have heat, water and provisions. Every child knows what is necessary to do to stay safe in a blackout. Even though we don't know what will happen from one day to the next, we're becoming a more optimistic and united nation."
A further talk on numerical simulations of fire spread on affected buildings was given by Dr Roman Yakovchuk, Head of the Department of Civil Protection and Computer Modelling.
As well as fostering knowledge exchange, the visit provided academics with the opportunity to support some of the 41 Ukrainian exchange students currently at Kingston University. They also took part in fieldwork trips with Kingston students, including one to see the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station and the surrounding area.
Senior lecturer in human geography Dr Tracey Coates, who is the Faculty of Engineering, Computing and the Environment's study abroad coordinator, said the long-running partnership between the institutions was an excellent example of how international partnerships could benefit staff and students from both countries.
"Ukrainian students who come to learn with us for a term or more are able to develop a broader understanding of some the issues surrounding emergency or disaster management. Similarly our students benefit from staff visits as they can learn first-hand about a range of topics relating to Ukraine which are relevant to their discipline," she said.
The exchange of knowledge and information also provided Kingston University staff with the opportunity to gain a greater appreciation of some of the challenges faced by their academic peers elsewhere in the world, Dr Coates said.
"Working with experienced Ukrainian professionals in the field of disaster management has provided valuable insights into their methods and the challenges they face. Alongside this, our lecturers have been able to share with them some of our own teaching methods, including work to make the curriculum more inclusive, interactive teaching methods and the use of local fieldwork to enhance students learning.
"In what is a hugely difficult time for the people of Ukraine, being able to continue to host colleagues from Lviv, who have been incredibly generous in taking the time to visit us and share their experiences in this way, has been an extremely rewarding experience for everyone involved."