Solidarity Ukraine: 1st assessment of the programme to welcome researchers and students in Rennes

At the end of March 2022, the Université de Rennes 1 and the member institutions of the UniR group announced the financing of a reception programme for refugee students and researchers from Ukraine: a multi-faceted scheme including intensive French courses, the integration of students into university curricula and scientists into Rennes research laboratories, as well as assistance with administrative procedures.
Etudiantes et étudiants venant d'Ukraine durant l'Université d'été du Cirefe

Responding to the emergency

In response to the scale of the conflict and using existing mechanisms, the two universities and the five grandes écoles in Rennes quickly mobilised to help the students and academics affected by the conflict.

The Centre de mobilité internationale de Rennes (CMI Rennes), in conjunction with the international relations departments of the institutions, offered personalised support to Ukrainian students, doctoral candidates and university staff present in Rennes. A common procedure was devised at the institutional level to welcome the first Ukrainian nationals who had fled their country. The CMI Rennes acted as a reception desk to centralise and follow up on applications, in conjunction with Campus France.

Between March and September 2022, it also received more than a hundred people, Ukrainian refugees and nationals of other nationalities who had fled the war, in the same way that it welcomes international students, doctoral candidates and researchers throughout the year in Rennes.

Our agents met with newcomers to help them with administrative procedures that can be complex for people who speak little or no French: obtaining a provisional residence permit, registering for social security, opening a bank account or a telephone line, applying for accommodation, etc.
Bertrand Lacour, director of the CMI Rennes 

Integrating exiled researchers into research laboratories

In March 2022, the Programme d'aide à l'accueil des scientifiques en urgence (PAUSE) supported by the Collège de France opened a special fund for Ukrainian researchers in danger so that they can seek shelter, protect their families and continue their research work.

For an initial period of three months, this emergency programme made it possible to host scientists in Rennes research laboratories such as Ecobio (CNRS / Université de Rennes 1)

Professor Nataliia Ryzhenko, Head of the Department of Ecology, Environmental Control and Audit at the State Academy of Ecology in Kiev, has joined the Ecobio laboratory, where she will work with the Geosciences teams on how nanoplastics and organic and inorganic pollutants affect plants:

I was very well received by the Ecobio team, which provided me with all the working conditions necessary for my integration. I also regularly exchange with the Geosciences Rennes team. For the one-year PAUSE project, I will be working on how nanoplastics and organic and inorganic pollutants affect plants. I will also have access to all the experimental and analytical infrastructures available at OSUR, the federated structure of the two joint research units. The two teams have been very active in setting up the 3-month and 1-year PAUSE projects. They even invested their own funds to welcome me in the best possible conditions.

Thanks to the PAUSE programme, four researchers and post-doctoral fellows have joined the IETR for a year. Ronan Sauleau, its director, explains:

Joint theses, co-authored publications, incoming mobility... We have been working with Kharkiv scientists for more than 25 years, particularly in the field of electromagnetic waves. It was therefore natural for us to do everything possible to welcome them to the IETR and to give them the means to continue their research, even though they no longer have access to their equipment and research infrastructures in Ukraine.

Thanks to this emergency reception within the Rennes universities, five researchers were able to prepare an application for the one-year PAUSE programme, on the basis of co-financing. Their applications were submitted to the Collège de France in September, with the financial support of the universities, the Rennes 1 Foundation and Rennes Métropole.

Rennes Métropole is proud to be associated with the solidarity initiative of the universities of Rennes, which are welcoming Ukrainian scientists forced into exile. Since the beginning of the Russian military aggression in Ukraine, there has been an increase in generosity in Rennes, from donations from individuals, companies and local authorities, to the reception of displaced people, artists and now researchers. It was only natural that Rennes Métropole should stand alongside the university community to welcome these researchers in the best possible conditions and support them so that they can continue their work in complete freedom.
Isabelle Pellerin, Vice-President of Rennes Métropole in charge of higher education and research and innovation

Living and studying in France

The CMI Rennes managed the registration of students for intensive French as a foreign language (FLE) courses at the Centre international rennais d'étude de français pour étrangers (CIREFE, Université Rennes 2).

39 students took part or all of the university certificate "Living and studying in France" offered by CIREFE between late April and early September.
Between the end of April and mid-June, the Ukrainian students who arrived on the run had 15 hours of language lessons per week for eight weeks. Groups of different levels were formed for beginners and those with some knowledge of French.

Between the end of June and the beginning of September, they were joined by their compatriots who had arrived in the meantime and all of them joined CIREFE's summer programmes alongside other foreign students.
They were taught language and civilisation, phonetics and writing skills four days a week, with the fifth day devoted to excursions and cultural outings.

I started the CIREFE intensive course in April in a beginner's class because I didn't speak the language at all. I didn't understand that the programme was only for Ukrainians: it was in my first class that I realised that we all came from the same place. Then we were mixed with other international students during the summer courses. At first it was very hard, I didn't know when I would see my husband and family again. I wanted to go back to Ukraine, but my aim was to improve my French. The courses and homework helped me to get through this period.
Olha, Ukrainian student enrolled in the Passerelle university diploma

A university course at the beginning of the school year

Thanks to funding from the UniR cluster, CIREFE has opened a new universitary diploma (DU) Passerelle for Ukrainians, in addition to the 30 students in exile already welcomed.

This diploma is part of the solidarity scheme for refugee and asylum-seeking students initiated by CIREFE in 2015. These students may be people who are already working in their country, who have started higher education or who have completed secondary school. This intensive training in language, culture and methodology enables them to reintegrate into a higher education course in France.

20 Ukrainian students started the DU Passerelle on 12 September - 16 of them had followed one of our programmes in the spring or summer and two older ones are returning to school.
They will follow language and civilisation courses for a year. Once they are more comfortable in French, they will also be able to choose an option and get involved with an association, as student involvement is part of the integration programme. The objective of the DU Passerelle is to enable them to resume their studies in French or to reorient themselves professionally.

Ariane Feyler, Responsible for the certificate Living and Studying and the university diploma Passerelle for Ukrainians at CIREFE

I didn't speak French at all when I arrived in France. Thanks to my host family, I discovered that CIREFE was offering an intensive course for Ukrainians and I started to follow it from April 25th. Then I followed the courses and the summer university before joining the DU Passerelle: I am very motivated to learn French and I progressed a lot during these last months, I understand the language well now. I like studying here,
I've made some friends.

Olena, 19-year-old Ukrainian student enrolled in the DU Passerelle

At the same time, some fifteen Ukrainians have registered for the start of the 2022 academic year in Rennes, including 11 at the Université de Rennes 1.
They will also be able to follow language support courses (evening classes) offered by CIREFE throughout the year.