A YOUNG Ukraine student leader who has helped keep students at her bomb-damaged Ukrainian university in touch with the rest of the word has been awarded an honorary degree by the University of York.

Vitalina Shevchenko, a student rector at Karazin Kharkiv National University, was in York today to collect her ‘Master of the University’ degree during the University of York graduation ceremonies.

Vitalina, along with many of her peers, was forced to flee as her University came under heavy bombardment during the war.

Forced to relocate to Spain, she was determined her peers should not miss out on their education - and set about creating a series of virtual networks so that students could stay connected.

Her network enabled her university to identify which students needed emergency housing and other forms of support.

The fourth year BA student in International Economy continues to use these networks to keep students connected and allow them to share their experiences.

The University of York invited Vitalina to visit York to take part her ceremony and the celebrations in person.

Vitalina, who represents around 20,000 students at Kharkiv University, said: “It was nice to be here in York to receive this honour in person, and meet so many of the people that have been supportive of me and my fellow students.

“This recognition is not only for me, but for all Ukrainian youth that are facing dramatic problems, but nonetheless wishing to continue their educational process and never stop learning.

“These are tremendously challenging times, but it is comforting to have these moments of celebration and connect with students, who may not be experiencing such a crisis, but who nevertheless share the same ambitions as Ukrainian students.”

Last month the University of York signed a partnership agreement with Karazin Kharkiv National University.

The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two institutions will lead to staff fellowships, support for Kharkiv in the management of their cultural heritage, summer schools and short courses and connections between the student unions.

UK universities are being matched with Ukrainian institutions as part of a twinning initiative to offer support to academics, students and university leaders during the conflict.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of York, Professor Saul Tendler, said: “Vitalina has been so remarkable in the way that she has brought people together in a time of crisis and remained honest, yet optimistic, as she rallied her fellow students when all seemed lost.

“Her actions have been inspiring, and she has been unwavering in her focus to rebuild and continue to provide access to learning for Ukrainian students.

“We honour her for her bravery and determination.”

Vitalina was one of eight people from the worlds of media, business, politics, and academia recognised with honorary degrees by the University in the July ceremonies this year.