Nottingham-Ukraine master’s ‘will help fight Russian propaganda’

Dual history programme for Ukrainian students will be developed and offered with Ukrainian Catholic University, one of six schemes to share charity funding

February 20, 2023
War in ukraine. Destroyed Ukrainian building and damaged flag in the wind
Source: iStock

A new UK-Ukrainian history master’s will help graduates to combat Russian misinformation, according to academics involved in its development.

The dual degree programme, which will be taught from September at Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) in the western city of Lviv, is being developed with staff at the University of Nottingham. Designed to aid the country’s post-war reconstruction, it is one of six charitably funded dual degree programmes with UK universities to launch this year.

Chris Woodard, Nottingham’s associate pro vice-chancellor for arts education, told Times Higher Education that the details of the interdisciplinary curriculum were still being fleshed out, but that there were modules planned on heritage, memory, identity and philosophy, with space for project work and internships.

“Having mastered new mechanisms of communication, our students will create and spread an updated image of Ukraine in the world community,” said Halyna Protsyk, international relations director and a political science lecturer at UCU. Andrii Yasinovskyi, the university’s humanities dean, said the master’s would be unique in Ukraine and would help to mould “a new type of humanitarian” who can “work with the problems of the past in up-to-date academic and public spaces, to create a new image of Ukraine and to propose a Ukrainian agenda for the world”.

The universities said that while the first cohort would be for Ukrainians only, international students would be invited after full accreditation. The institutions were among 12 that won funding for the dual degree pilot earlier this year, with each pair getting £80,000 from a £500,000 pot donated by the algorithmic trading company XTX Markets.

Anzhela Stashchak, director for projects at Cormack Consultancy Group, which organised the funding call, said the 11 applications it received were so strong that the ministerial and academic judging panel decided to split the pot six ways rather than five.

Conspiratorial theories popularised by some Russian intellectuals have been blamed for helping to legitimise the one-year-old invasion, despite critics questioning their rigour. How would the course designers respond to those who dismiss joint teaching with the UK as pro-Western propaganda?

“It’s partly to do with scholarly virtues, like attending to the evidence and not making things up because you like the conclusions,” said Professor Woodard. “It’s partly to do with pluralism, as well. Where you’ve got competing viewpoints and you’ve got the opportunity to challenge each other, that is a guard, an imperfect guard, against propaganda.”

The two universities will also hold joint research workshops on development, resilience and religion in wartime, plus the moral and legal considerations of conflict, with early plans for visiting professorships and research internships.

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Reader's comments (1)

Interesting idea... there's scope to develop into a more general "How to sift the truth out of propaganda" programme as the truth is often one of the first casualties of war - both sides will be busy shading it to suit their own agendas. Something both journalists and historians need to master if they are going to present the rest of us with an accurate account of what is (or was) going on.