January 2022; Volodymyr Havryliak and Sviatoslav Liutyi are coming for a six-month stay from Ukraine to Bodø and Nord University.
February 2022: Russia attacks Ukraine - and two young students quickly find out that they still cannot go home in June of the same year. As planned.
- We are under protection and have now been here for a year, says Havryliak.
He is from western Ukraine and affiliated with Chernivtsi National University. Good grades gave him an opportunity to go on an exchange to Nord University via Erasmus+ in the subjects of economics and computer science.
Liutyi's hometown is the capital Kyiv. Here, Liutyi is a master's student in the subject of public economics at Kyiv International University.
The stay and studies are thanks to bilateral agreements between Nord University and as many as 19 Ukrainian universities. An agreement that started a little over 20 years ago and which has built a close collaboration and friendship between the universities.
The students were therefore present when the High North Center at the Nord University Business School invited in January to a unique conference about the situation in Ukraine, and where the spotlight was set on facilitating a flexible education in a changing world: "Resilient Education in a changing world ; Learning from and with Ukraine».
Ministers in line
Ministers and subject experts queued up to take part in the seminar.
Ukraine's Minister of Education Serhiy Shkarlet presented via Teams from Kyiv:
- As of today, we are not able to repair all the infrastructure, but we are working to maintain the universities and the teaching. Last autumn we gained around 600,000 new students. The priority now is to maintain and increase the quality of our universities. Regarding the university alliance with Nord University and Norway, we have four priority areas that we want to develop further:
• Partnerships and agreements between Ukrainian and Norwegian universities
• Initiate new educational programmes on relevant subjects
• Study support for young people, so that they can study abroad
• Skill development and further education for academia
- I am convinced that it will help us greatly if these four areas are developed, says Shkarlet.
State Secretary Oddmund Løkensgard Hoel in the Ministry of Education in Norway believes it is important to focus on education.
- During such crises, it is crucial to contribute to education. When the war is won, the country will need highly educated men and women. Norway is working on several cooperation agreements to ensure higher education in Ukraine and we are confident that our cooperation will be strong. Ukrainian students and researchers are welcome to Norway, says Hoel.
Can't find peace
Havryliak are among several Ukrainian students who knew about the agreements with Nord - and who therefore applied to Bodø. He took a bachelor's degree when he studied in his hometown. The goal now is to continue with a master's.
- It is great to see how education takes place in Norway. Before Erasmus+, I had intended to come here on holiday. Now we have protection from Bodø municipality and a place to live while we study. I think it's a great opportunity. We are lucky, he says.
Both are safe, but it is hard to find an inner peace.
- It is difficult because my family in Kyiv is not safe from the bombs. They do not have electricity for large parts of the day, and it is winter and cold. I also have several friends who fight for the country. I am safe, but my soul is at home, says Liutyi.
The bombs also reach the far west - and the air traffic alert goes off daily in Havryliak's home town. There, too, the electricity goes out.
So far, over 400 school buildings in Ukraine have been left in ruins. The World Bank and allied partners are currently well underway in planning how to rebuild the country after Russia has lost the war.
- We will not just build up, we will modernise and build new buildings. The World Bank, together with international partners, has guaranteed 35 trillion US dollars in grants and loans to Ukraine. We are now working to prepare the build-up in the form of renewal and modernisation in terms of energy, transport, railways, buildings and communications, says Natalia Konovalenko at the World Bank.
PhD on strategic choices for approaching the European market
The large vineyards in eastern Ukraine have been largely bombed. The wine farmers try as best they can to save the values. In Bodø and Norway, Viktor Golovii is working on his PhD on strategic management and how Ukrainian, Moldovan and Georgian winegrowers can approach the European market through strategic choices and strategic management.
- Kyiv International University and Nord University have a partner program on master's and PhD. I take part of my PhD here in Bodø, says Golovii.
The doctoral thesis is being prepared, and Golovii expects to defend his thesis in autumn 2024.
In the course of his work, he has had field surveys and interviews with wine farmers in both Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.
- Wine production is an important sector in all three countries, but to be part of the European market we must regulate wine production. The producers have to make the choice about which markets they want to sell to; national or international. We now compete with the EU market and the wine production must then work strategically and structurally, he says.
Golovii knows what he's talking about. For many years he worked and lived in France and learned about wine production.
The aim is for the research to help wine producers in how to take production further, if they so wish.
- I seek to find which strategies work best for local wine producers in these countries - and which success factors exist. Because as it is today, wine production is in crisis. We are losing production. If we are to get out of the crisis, we must act strategically. Because we see that young people's drinking habits are also changing in Ukraine. They drink less vodka – and more wine. As the Europeans do.