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Neoliberalism and a social justice agenda: The integration of displaced Ukrainian students in the English higher education sector

  • School: School of Social Sciences
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2022
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Self-funded


On the 24th of February 2022, the world has witnessed the most unexpected and unbelievable turn of events – a war in a country located in the geographical Europe. Russian government and military, in cooperation with their partners in Belarus, launched a military assault on Ukraine’s infrastructure, civilians’ lives, freedoms and sovereignty (Kulakevich, 2022). The learning process has been disrupted in Ukrainian higher education institutions. The number of damaged or destroyed educational establishments, including higher education institutions has been growing (Save Schools, 2022). Ukrainian academics and students are among those fleeing, seeking safety. A raising number of Ukrainian refugees are arriving into the UK, and discussions have been reported in the media about UK higher education sector developing avenues of support for those Ukrainian who wish to continue their academic studies and careers in the UK (The University of Lincoln, 2022), perusing the spirit of social justice in the rigid neoliberal structures of UK universities.

This project, being informed by Ball’s (2015: 258) conception of ‘the neoliberal university’ and Kushnir’s (2020) ideas of the growing voice of social justice in the neoliberal HE context, focusses on the English context and pursues to answer: How have English universities been reconciling their agenda for supporting refugees from the displaced Ukrainian university UG and PG student community with their neoliberal practices?

The project relies on collecting and thematically analysing university official communications issued since the start of the war in Ukraine on the 24th of February 2022 and in-depth semi-structured interviews with representatives of key structures at universities (e.g., international offices, University of Sanctuary divisions if present, senior management team, the Doctoral school, Student’s Union, academics), responsible for contributing to relevant decisions and executing them. The project will adopt a case study approach, whereby three universities (cases) will be chosen, representing different types of HE institutions in England: post-92, red-brick universities, Russel group universities.

This research is essential to understand the evolving support for Ukrainian students who became refugees in England. It is also a stepping stone to, later, understand the remaining needs of both English universities and Ukrainian student refugees and work out the ways in which to address them.

The vision of the Institute of Education at NTU is to be a distinctive world-class provider of teacher education and the study of education, rooted in and serving communities and families and founded in partnerships which are research-based and student-centred.

The project aligns with the following NTU Research Centres:Centre for Behavioural Research Methods; Centre for Rights and Justice; Identity Territory and Social Justice Research Group

Potential Supervisory Team:

Director of Studies:Dr Iryna Kushnir

Co-supervisors : Dr Krishan Sood and Dr Pavlina Nikita

Application deadline

Thursday 23 June 2022 at 9 am

Interview details

Interviews will take place on the following dates:

Between 9 July – 15 August 2022.

Entry qualifications

Entrants should normally hold a first or upper second class honours degree of a UK university or an equivalent qualification, or a lower second class honours degree with a master’s degree at Merit level (or equivalent) of a UK university or an equivalent qualification.

An applicant not meeting the certificated requirement may be considered on merit and in relation to the nature and scope of the proposed programme of study. Applicants are considered against evidence of ability and background knowledge in relation to the proposed research. Professional experience, publications, written reports or other appropriate evidence of accomplishment are taken into consideration.

How to apply

For a step-by-step guide to make an application, please visit our how to apply page.

Fees and funding

This is a self-funded PhD project. Applicants are welcome to contact project leaders to discuss potential funding opportunities.

Guidance and support

Further guidance and support on how to apply can be found on our apply page.

Still need help?

Dr Iryna Kushnir