Discussing the Impact of Russia-Ukraine Conflict on HEIs, and Over 76,000 International Students

Key Points at a Glance


  • Estimates report 76,548 international students enrolled in Ukrainian higher education institutions; 18,000 of them coming from India.
  • Most international students in Ukraine study medicine.
  • International students in Ukraine contribute $3 for every $1,000 to their national economy, compared to just $1.5 for international students in the United States.
  • Because the study of medicine requires lab work, online delivery may not be enough. A pathway solution is worth considering.

The biggest worry after the Russia-Ukraine war triggered was of the International Students in Ukraine, who were the most worried lot, as far as evacuation from the war bound zone was concerned.


Several videos appealing to the concerned governments made an instant flash across the social media platforms where international students studying in Ukrainian universities were seen appealing to their native governments to speed up the evacuation process. Statistics and data available from Ukraine’s Education and Science Ministry noted that these international students were mainly from across India, Middle East, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and African nations including Nigeria, Egypt and Morocco.


According to news reports, an estimated 76,548 international students are enrolled in Ukrainian higher education institutions, with around 18,000 of them coming from India. In a March 7 report, it was noted that the Indian Embassy had already evacuated over 10,000 students out of Ukraine. Statistics and data available from Ukraine’s Education and Science Ministry noted that these international students were mainly from across different countries like India, Middle East, Azerbaijan,


Turkmenistan, and African nations including Nigeria, Egypt, and Morocco.Most international students in Ukraine study medicine, and they form an important part of the country’s economy. Media reports stated that thousands of students and emigrants from across the Indian state were stuck in Ukraine. They were mainly based in Kyiv and Kharkiv, studying medicine, business, and engineering.


As Russia launched the biggest European invasion since World War II, thousands have fled, hundreds are still trapped, and many remain uncertain about the fate of their education and future.






Why do international students opt for Ukraine? The country offers a lot of investment initiatives in higher education and a very specific attempt to attract students from newly independent African countries.


Ukrainian universities are seen as a gateway to the job-markets in Europe, because the degrees offered by these universities are widely recognized and offer high education standards at affordable education fees, simple and straight visa norms and access, as well as the possibility of obtaining permanent resident status in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.


The country also boasts good medical facilities which attract a lot of students wanting to study medicine. Plus, the country has relaxed admission requirements and a cheaper cost of living, as compared to other European destinations.




Having invested a lot of money in education in Ukraine, many students are in a dilemma and are not able to make up their mind to return home or stay in Ukraine to complete their degree education.


Countries like Hungary and Ghana are welcoming back their students who have left Ukraine by offering them to continue their studies in local universities at the same cost as their tuition in Ukraine. However, it is not clear as to how many African and Asian students are covered by this arrangement.


Meanwhile, Canada, one of the most preferred global education destinations, announced a new immigration and study permit pathway for Ukrainian students who are fleeing from the conflict zone from their own home country. Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser announced that the country is prioritizing study permit applications and study permit application fee waivers for Ukrainian citizens.


In India, a plea has been filed in the High Courts and Supreme Court. A public interest litigation (PIL) seeks guidance on the issue of admission and continuation of studies in Ukraine by Indian medical students. The plea also sought directives from the Indian Government to provide a medical subject equivalent orientation program for admitting Indian students who have been evacuated from Ukraine.




In the international education market, Ukraine earns a significant amount of revenue thanks to its educational infrastructure. The average spend of an international student in Ukraine is more than $7,000 a year, according to a 2020 research by Ukraine’s Education and Science Ministry.


Latest numbers show that international students contribute $542M in annual revenue to Ukraine. Ukraine has an annual GDP of $155B. Breaking the numbers down, this means that international students contribute $3 for every $1,000. Comparing this to the United States, international students only contributed $28.4B to the country’s economy of $21t in 2020. This amounts to less than $1.5 for every $1,000.


International Education experts believe that Ukraine will be left with no option but to mitigate the risk of losing revenue from education exports by engaging in tie-ups with institutes outside Ukraine, to shift its learning processes online, and to make the online admission online education process completely flexible. With recent happenings, hybrid models are seen as the norm in Ukraine more and more.


There is a concern, however, when keeping in mind that the top field of study in Ukraine is medicine, which requires practical experiments and cannot be addressed in online or remote classroom mode.




With economics attached to international education in Ukraine in the past few years, very specific efforts have been made to promote Ukrainian Universities abroad, for which a special body has been set up Ukrainian State Centre for International Education, which primarily engages in attracting students from across the world, especially the developing economies.


With the proactive approach, the Ukrainian Government has been successfully able to establish its education exports as a perfect international business model. Deans of Ukrainian universities have been visiting several developing economies and destinations to invite potential students.


Due to the war, many of the top universities’ profits and gains from education exports, especially from the higher education vertical, are now completely vulnerable.


To help those affected by the war, a low fee structure is a major catchment area for international students. It is understandable why Ukraine remains a top destination for medical students. What they spend there is just half of what they would spend if they were studying in India or in any Western country, and Ukraine has some of the best universities in the region.




On this note, experts believe that Ukraine is still figuring out what the future holds for its international education sector. Historically, the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, had led to such losses of revenue from universities in Crimea.


With Ukraine leaning toward the West, the country’s higher education institutions will probably go into agreements with Western institutes of excellence, for several education programs offered by them.


Therefore, the future lies in Ukrainian institutions tapping into pathway programs. The country will not likely give up on its revenue from education exports, and would equally eye the United States and Europe for such pathway programs. These pathway programs will not only facilitate the already enrolled students in the Ukrainian Universities who will be able to opt for their future education needs but will also allow the new batches to access similar routes who would be more than happy to explore such handshakes. (SUNEETHA QURESHI)

President, MSM

Suneetha has worked for 15 years in the international education sector and 25 years overall, including her work for other industries. As president of MSM, she fortifies its business development outreach globally, particularly in the face of MSM’s foray into edtech-based recruitment via MSM Unify. She preserves the premium, value-adding services provided to each MSM partner institute, including dedicated teams on the ground, agent management, lead generation and inquiry management, application pre-screening, and student and parent support through pioneering pre-departure briefing sessions.

She has an impeccable track record of successfully launching the representative offices in Asia and Africa of many North American and European higher education institutions. Her key strengths include hiring, training, and developing teams as evidenced by the successful results of the dedicated in-country college and university client teams.


Suneetha also has taken the lead in developing several initiatives at MSM, including building robust standard operating procedures, the Rise ‘n Shine team engagement platform, and the organization’s data analytics and audit segments.

Data sources:


Fallon, K. (2022, March 5) Foreign students fleeing Russia’s war on Ukraine hope to return. Aljazeera. Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/3/5/they-told-us-to-go-home-student-recounts-ukraine-war


Florido, A. (2022, March 7) International students went to Ukraine to study. Now many worry they can’t escape. NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2022/03/06/1084800770/ukraine-students-india-syria-sumy-state


Ukraine International Student Statistics (2022, March) Erudera. Retrieved from https://erudera.com/statistics/ukraine/ukraine-international-student-statistics/


Brook, T. (2022, Feb. 23) Russia declares war, launches attack in Ukraine; explosions reported. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2022/02/23/russia-ukraine-invasion-crisis-update/6906567001/


Ali, S. (2022, March 4) Ukraine: Why so many African and Indian students were in the country. BBC. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-60603226


Canada launches a new temporary residence pathway to welcome those fleeing the war in Ukraine (2022, March 17). Government of Canada. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/2022/03/canada-launches-new-temporary-residence-pathway-to-welcome-those-fleeing-the-war-in-ukraine.html


Plea in SC for allowing medical students returning from Ukraine to continue education in India (2022, March 13) The Hindu. Retrieved from https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/plea-in-sc-for-allowing-medical-students-returning-from-ukraine-to-continue-education-in-india/article65221656.ece


Kasturi, C. (2022, March 1) Ukraine is seeing an exodus of foreign students, and revenue. Aljazeera. Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2022/3/1/ukraine-sees-an-exodus-of-foreign-students-and-revenue


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