Foreign Students in Uzhhorod National University: Safety and Quality Education Are a Top Priority

Foreign Students in Uzhhorod National University: Safety and Quality Education Are a Top Priority

Over the past eight years, a large community of foreign students has become one of the highlights of Uzhhorod National University, an indicator of the prestige of education at exactly this higher educational establishment, located in the far west of Ukraine, where from the windows of the auditoriums there can be seen the borders and territory of neighboring Slovakia.

Myroslava Lendel, Vice-Rector for scientific and pedagogical activities, and Vasyl Kalii, Dean of Medical Faculty № 2, where the majority of foreigners obtain their specialities, explain how foreign students study in wartime and how the university can guarantee their safety.

In what way did Uzhhorod National University ensure the safety of foreign students and quality education at the beginning of the war?

Myroslava Lendel: Back in mid-February, i.e. before the start of russia’s full-scale aggression against Ukraine, we received letters from the embassies of the countries where our students come from, in particular from the Indian Embassy in Kyiv, with a request to handle the shift to remote learning and not to prevent these students from returning home. Thus, even before the war, we began to think about the logistics of our students’ leaving Ukraine, considering it our duty not only to "not interfere with", but to favour the safe and comfortable return of students to their countries of residence. It was decided that the neighbor's aggression against Ukraine should not create risks for foreigners, at the same time, the university should guarantee quality education for them even in case of leaving the territory of our state. Yet, it happened so that on the first day of the war, we turned out to be the first in Ukraine who were ready – logistically, correctly in diplomatic terms – to send students home. This was facilitated by the Transcarpathian Regional Military Administration, the Embassy of India in Kyiv, in Budapest, and the Consulate General of Hungary in Ukraine. We are indeed grateful to them for this. 

Thus, all foreign students from Uzhhorod National University were able to leave Ukraine in the first days of the war. Starting from February 28, students of other universities of Ukraine – Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Zaporizhia, Kharkiv, Dnipro – started using the Humanitarian Hub of Uzhhorod National University, which was helping foreigners. According to estimates, we have helped about 6,000 students cross the border.


How is educational process organized at Medical Faculty №2 during the war?

Vasyl Kalii: The educational process at the N2 Medical Faculty has not undergone any significant changes since the beginning of the war compared to the quarantine period during the pandemic. Therefore, we already have considerable experience in distance learning, using a variety of teaching methods and actively using both university-wide learning platforms, such as Elearn, and others, which are necessary for training, particularly, medical students

Therefore, classes are conducted not only by means of the classic online method, but also by modernizing it, when a model of a virtual patient is formed, a specific clinical situation is stimulated, and conditions for solving clinically-oriented practical problems are created. This approach is possible due to the fact that in addition to the usual videoсonferencing platforms and online learning systems, their structure also includes elements of simulation modelling with the use of different types of software (BioDigital, Organon, 3D atlases) through the implementation of the principle of joint access.

Additionally, the principle of joint acces allows students to get acquainted with modern clinical-oriented software for the analysis of diagnostic data, including the results of X-ray diagnostics, ultrasound diagnostics and computed tomography, which they can immediately use in their future practice since their guidance elements of their functioning do not differ critically in different versions of programs.

Yet, while conducting lectures and practical classes, teachers are used to resorting to the so-called anonymized instant surveys, which enable them to optimize the content of future classes in accordance with individually formed requests of students and their wishes, while adhering to the main focus of the curriculum. Classes also provide students with relevant evidence-based clinical guidelines, including those presented on the BMJ platform. Additionally, the analysis of the most relevant tasks of evidence-based research and publications on the PubMed platform is carried out, during which students together with teachers process in detail the obtained data of clinical randomized trials, systematic reviews and meta-analyzes.

During learning sessions students are provided with relevant evidence-based clinical guidelines, including those presented on the BMJ platform. In addition, the analysis of the most relevant tasks of evidence-based research and publications on the PubMed platform is carried out, in the course of which students together with teachers process in a detailed way the obtained data of clinical randomized trials, systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

Moreover, at one of our departments, the staff has developed a unique training method for forming  skills of clinical thinking and communication with the patient “OSCE -fish”, based on which the video lecture and a series of educational videos in English have been recorded; a certificate of copyright was even established for it.


Are students’ opinions on the quality of the educational process monitored?


Vasyl Кalii: The Dean’s Office is in constant contact with the departments regarding student attendance. We discuss their views on the organization and content of online learning, and then, if possible, take them into account. So far, there has been no official appeal from our students to the dean's office with complaints about distance learning. Therefore, I am sure that both the teaching staff and students have adapted to such modern learning conditions.


What is your opinion on the peculiarities of organizing the educational process from the first of September, taking into consideration the military and political situation in the country?


Vasyl Kalii: Certainly, no one can predict how the events in the wartime will develop, but we unequivocally believe in our victory, and therefore we are considering various options for organizing the educational process from the beginning of September. However, given the current state of affairs, it seems to me that it would be optimal, at least for foreign students who are in their 2nd, 3rd , 4th  year of studying, to continue online learning in the first semester, and in the second semester, hopefully, we will be ready for regular offline study. And eventually everything will depend on the current situation, because our students’ safety is, of course, our priority!


What is a priority for Uzhhorod National University in the admission process for foreigners in 2022?


Мyroslava Lendel: At present, our priority is to maintain last year’s student enrollment rates, despite the emergency conditions that have developed in Ukraine this year. Despite the aggressive and senseless war that russia has started against our country, Ukraine is successfully resisting it, the state is working effectively on all fronts, including education. This year an admission campaign is held by universities, educational institutions are adapting to new conditions.

Even in the current situation in Ukraine, we guarantee the security of those who are admitted to Uzhhorod National University. I would also like to emphasize that Uzhhorod is over 1,500 km away from the combat line, it is located directly near the EU border, and Transcarpathia is currently the safest region of Ukraine. 

It should be stressed that education in Ukraine is competitive on the world market owing to an optimal quality-price value. Our graduates’ diplomas are recognized abroad, most of them are already practising doctors in their native countries, in particular in India, Nigeria, some continue their postgraduate studies in the United States and other countries on the basis of our diplomas.


What are the possible scenarios for organizing the study of foreign students at Uzhhorod National University in 2022?

Мyroslava Lendel: At Uzhhorod National University we are supporters of live learning, direct contact between a teacher and a student. Therefore, we consider the scenario that until active hostilities cease in our country, it will be possible to use educational buildings, dormitories of the partner universities of neighboring countries, in particular Slovakia, for a temporary stay and training junior university students.

Admittedly, for other students, depending on the situation, we will decide which format of learning is the best in the first semester of 2022 – we consider it a priority to enable senior university students to return to the format of «live learning» in Uzhhorod. Practical training is important for them, and they already have many acquaintances in our city and know that staying in it creates minimal security risks. It has to be stressed that until the end of active hostilities in eastern and southern Ukraine, we consider online learning as one of the main learning formats, especially for third- and fourth-year students – who are already familiar with the specifics of the educational process in the university, but not yet critically in need of practical training conducted at clinics. So, just to sum things up, while choosing the learning format, we will be guided primarily by ensuring our students’ safety as well as the quality of education.