EU sanctions on Russia aiming to restrict crude oil exports and related technical assistance has impacted Russian technical students in the Czech Republic.
Interpretations of the sanctions have found that providing higher education or supporting applied research could count as rendering technical assistance.
In an official memo to all Czech universities, the Czech Republic’s deputy education minister Radka Wildova said that EU sanctions forbid providing technical assistance to people or organisations from Russia.
Despite Wildova’s memo, Czech universities are independent from Czech authorities and, as such, universities can’t be forced to comply with these sanctions. The most Czech authorities can do is recommend Russian students be excluded from classes or subjects.
Wildova warned that any universities not complying with EU sanctions “risk losing international credibility”.
The Czech Technical University in Prague hosts 800 Russian students and therefore stands to lose a large portion of its international population if it chooses to comply with the sanctions.
“We want at all costs to avoid students being forced to return to Russia because of the sanctions”
In a statement to German broadcaster DW, CTU chancellor Lucie Orgonikova stated, “We are trying to find a way to comply with the sanctions and at the same time enable Russian students to continue their studies.
“We want at all costs to avoid students being forced to return to Russia because of the sanctions,” she continued.
While the Czech Republic is one of the only reported countries prohibiting providing technical assistance to Russian students, many other European institutions have implemented less severe restrictions that are affecting Russian students.
A spokesperson for the European University Association told The PIE News, “Overall, there is a broad agreement to discontinue relations with Russian governmental institutions.
“Many universities have put projects and other cooperation initiatives with Russian partner institutions on hold,” they added.
The spokesperson highlighted that they believe the invasion of Ukraine is the true obstacle to higher education and internationalisation, rather than the sanctions. They said that the EUA didn’t exclude its Russian member institutions until those institutions voiced support for the invasion.
According to the EUA, there are voices in the Netherlands and Germany that have recommended a continuation of peer exchange with Russian academics, and that Russian students in these countries be allowed to stay and finish their studies.
The EUA also noted that it supports “any members of the Russian academic community who oppose the aggression to Ukraine”.