By Max Kendix and Emily Doughty
Durham University students spending their year abroad in Russia have been advised to plan to leave Russia as soon as possible, with most having already left.
In an email to students, the Executive Dean of Arts and Humanities, Professor Janet Stewart, told students that due to “the university’s own risk assessment of the current situation in Ukraine” , they “should make plans to leave Russia as soon as possible”.
The University’s decision came just hours before the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office announced it would advise against all travel to Russia “due to the lack of flight options available to return to the Kingdom. Kingdom and the increased volatility of the Russian economy”. ”.
Corn Palatinate understands that some Durham students in Russia have yet to leave, citing limited and risky travel options. Previously, the students had been told that they were ready to leave their internship “at short notice” and that leaving would not affect the accreditation of their year abroad.
Some have since written for Palatinate about their experience of living in a country invading its neighbour. A total of around ten Durham students are believed to have traveled to study Russian at Durham’s partner universities this term.
Russian airliners are banned from UK and EU airspace and EU carriers are now banned from flying over Russia. The department told students that “alternative travel options may be available with other carriers or via land routes to Finland or Estonia from St. Petersburg.”
The remaining options include flights via Moscow and Istanbul or Dubai, costing between £600 and £2,000. The most viable option for those in Tomsk is to travel to St. Petersburg and take a bus to Tallinn followed by a return flight.
However, Durham University has stressed that financial aid will be given “to any student who needs help funding their return journey”.
The department has asked students to make their own travel arrangements, but has offered support for those struggling to get home through the University’s travel agent, Dawson and Sanderson. Durham University said its insurers, UMAL, would consider claims related to the dispute.
The UK Foreign Office currently advises against all travel to Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. At the time Durham University sent the email, the Foreign Office only advised against traveling within 50km of the Ukraine-Russia border.
The department said the advice was put in place due to ‘the further escalation of the situation over the weekend and travel options will become more limited than they currently are’, citing the decision taken yesterday by the US Embassy to advise US citizens to leave Russia immediately. while commercial flights remain available.
Palatinate understands that the Department of Russian Studies is developing interim contingency plans for students who are due to travel to Russia next academic year, including using existing agreements with Latvian universities.
The use of Belarus and Kazakhstan for the year abroad has also been mooted, with the former now considered unfeasible due to the country being used as an active military base for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. .
In a statement, Durham University said: “The conflict and developments in Ukraine are of immense international concern. As an inclusive community, we recognize that people at our university will be impacted in different ways. We would like to express our grief and sympathy to anyone caught up in the conflict.
“The safety of our staff and students is paramount. In line with our updated risk assessment, we have asked our students currently studying in Russia to return to the UK as soon as possible. We are in direct contact with them and support them in the necessary steps to do so.
“We have reassured all students returning to the UK at the start of their study abroad year that there will be no prejudice to their learning outcomes or the accreditation of this part of this Classes.
“We are committed to supporting staff and students who are affected.”
Image: Ministry of Defense of Ukraine via Wikimedia Commons