Business Schools Open Their Doors to Refugees

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Tuesday, June 21, 2022
By AACSB Staff
Photo by iStock/martinedoucet
From scholarships to safe places to study, schools around the world offer aid to Ukrainian citizens and others displaced by war.
  • Schools in Europe are offering Ukrainian university students free tuition and some scholarships to cover living expenses.
  • Some courses are available online, synchronously and asynchronously, while others are offered in person.
  • An American university has launched a scholarship program aimed at students who have fled their countries due to violent conflict or persecution.

As Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, universities around the world seek ways to give aid to refugees and help their counterparts in Ukraine provide education for their students. Here’s a brief look at the recent efforts of four schools that have taken purposeful steps to offer displaced students and faculty places to study, work, and regroup.

Scholars and Scholarships

Aalto University in Espoo, Finland, has launched initiatives aimed at both faculty and students affected by the invasion. For faculty, the school is funding visiting researcher positions for about 20 Ukrainian scholars, who will be offered positions for a fixed term in one of the university’s research areas. The first candidates in the School of Business have been in the department of management studies.

“We aim to arrange buddy support for the Ukrainian researchers, as well as support for integration into the community,” says Timo Korkeamäki, dean of the School of Business. “Occupational healthcare also will be available—for example, for psychological professional help.”

At the same time, Aalto University is offering Ukrainian university students a place to study free of charge. According to the school’s website, “Ukrainian students studying at Ukrainian universities as well as degree students who have received asylum from Ukraine may apply to Aalto University for a separate right to study without tuition fees if the war has interrupted their studies. While the separate study right entitles students to complete individual study units, not a degree, students may apply to Aalto University later for bachelor’s or master’s degree studies.”

To date, 17 Ukrainian students have applied to the School of Business, says Korkeamäki, and nine ultimately accepted the school’s offer. Two will begin their studies with the informational technology program this summer, while the rest will join the school in the autumn, taking the same courses offered to other students in the School of Business. To make sure the courses align with their degree programs, students can work with counselors to plan their courses.

While study at Aalto University is free of charge for all Ukrainian students, a lottery was held to allow 40 Ukrainian students to also receive scholarships intended to cover the cost of living. The scholarships were paid for out of the university’s basic funding, but the school is also conducting a fundraising campaign to collect money for more scholarships.

While study at Aalto University is free of charge for all Ukrainian students, a lottery was held to allow 40 Ukrainian students to also receive scholarships intended to cover the cost of living.

Broader national and regional initiatives offer additional educational opportunities for Ukrainian students who want to study at Aalto. For instance, Korkeamäki notes that all Finnish universities are allowing Ukrainian citizens to take courses at Open University free of charge through July 2023. These courses—in subjects such as business, technology, languages, and art—are open to everyone regardless of background or age. In addition, Korkeamäki believes that eventually it may be possible to provide scholarships to Ukrainian students through the European Union’s Erasmus program, which encourages student mobility through European student exchanges.

Education and Aid

BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo has committed to donating 300,000 NOK (about 31,200 USD) for humanitarian aid to the local population of Ukraine in Norway. The money, which will be drawn from general operating funds at the school, will be distributed through the Red Cross. “Internally at BI, the response to this donation has been great,” says Marius Eriksen, executive vice president of full-time programs at the business school.

Furthermore, BI Norwegian Business School has established the Financial Aid Award for Ukrainians, which consists of a tuition waiver plus a stipend for living expenses for each year the student is taking classes in a bachelor’s or master’s program. So far, eight scholarships have been awarded to master’s students and two to bachelor’s students. These are in addition to two applicants who had been awarded scholarships prior to the outbreak of war and who have subsequently received stipends for living expenses.

“Ukrainian refugees also have been granted access to loans and grants from Lånekassen, the Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund, the same financial aid available to Norwegians,” says Eriksen. Applicants who aren’t already in the country must make their way to Norway, he notes; if they can’t manage the travel, their financial aid packages will be distributed to other students.

Normally, 10 to 20 Ukrainian students apply to the school’s MSc program, and five or seven to the bachelor’s programs. While applications to the master’s program have stayed steady in 2022, the school has received double the number of applications for the bachelor’s program, particularly from candidates who already have bachelor’s degrees. “The degree does not make them eligible for our master’s program, so they need to get business credits to qualify,” Eriksen explains.

Classes and Collaborations

POLIMI Graduate School of Management in Milan, Italy, is collaborating with three Ukrainian business schools to offer opportunities to faculty and students affected by the war. Currently the school is finalizing details of a partnership with the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, in which the schools will offer classes about sustainability and global business. But two other initiatives are already underway, allowing POLIMI to offer courses for free to students from Ukraine.

POLIMI Graduate School of Management in Milan is collaborating with three Ukrainian business schools to offer opportunities to faculty and students affected by the war.

One collaboration is with the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE). In early May, the two schools held an online networking session to give full-time students a chance to socialize and connect. Then, starting in mid-June, POLIMI will deliver four online synchronous courses co-designed by professors of both schools: Leadership and People Management, Operations and Project Management, Data Analysis for Business, and Strategic Management. Each class will involve 10 to 15 KSE students and count for between 30 and 50 hours. The courses are considered part of the academic path students would take at KSE.

POLIMI also is collaborating with Kyiv-Mohyla Business School (KMBS) to enable up to 40 MBA students and some faculty from KMBS to access POLIMI’s digital learning platform D-HUB. Through the platform, the Ukrainian students will be able to view asynchronous video clips for three classes, including Digital Transformation, Project Management, and Decision Making. Students must pass multiple-choice online tests after each video clip before they can move on to the next one.

For schools in a war zone, there is always a risk that online classes will be compromised by an unreliable internet connection. According to Tommaso Agasisti, POLIMI’s associate dean for international relations, connectivity hasn’t been a problem so far, although an air attack alarm interrupted one meeting. However, he adds, faculty from KSE have warned that disruptions could occur. “That will be something to deal with—particularly in regards to synchronous classes,” he says.

Conflict and Peace

In response to humanitarian issues spotlighted by the war in Ukraine, Brandeis International Business School at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, has launched a scholarship fund aimed at students who have been forced to leave their countries due to violent conflict or persecution. The business school plans to award the first scholarships to graduate students entering this fall.

The Peace Scholarship Fund is designed to support up to 10 students over the next several years. It has been endowed by two members of the business school’s board of advisors: Alan Hassenfeld, the retired chairman and CEO of global toy company Hasbro; and Barbara Clarke, an investor and entrepreneur who founded The Impact Seat, which invests in emerging technologies led by diverse teams. Hassenfeld and Clarke have each committed 250,000 USD to the effort, and additional money will be raised through matching funds.

“The war in Ukraine, which has already forced more than four million people to flee their homeland, demands a response from those in a position to help,” says Brandeis University president Ron Leibowitz. “Brandeis was founded by the American Jewish community, many of whom had either fled Europe or lost whole families in World War II. Helping those who face similar threats to their lives is something we feel a strong obligation to do.”

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