The University of Manchester has appointed the first-ever Professor of Comparative and Ukrainian Politics in the UK and the wider English-speaking world, in a move that demonstrates the leading role of the University when it comes to the study of contemporary Ukraine.

Olga Onuch is an academic whose expertise on Ukrainian politics and society has led her to become one of the leading Ukraine experts both in the UK and internationally. Since the 2004 Orange Revolution Olga has focused her research on political engagement in the country, and since 2014 she was a member of an advisory group to the Ukrainian government and has worked with diverse policy makers from Ukraine, the UK, USA, EU and Canada.

However, since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Olga has dedicated herself to recording and understanding the war, as well as releasing a highly-regarded book, The Zelensky Effect, about the role of civic national identity in Ukraine and how it influenced President Zelensky and directed his leadership. While the world’s attention may be on Ukraine now, she has studied it in depth for many years, making her an invaluable font of knowledge about the country.

In her new role, Professor Onuch will contribute to the multiple prize-winning community of senior scholars and Professors in the University’s Politics Department by developing teaching curricula, mentoring early career researchers and developing policy-focused research agendas. The Professorship will raise the profile of Ukrainian scholarship and studies at the University and in the UK more widely, making Manchester a leader in the field.

She will launch the ‘Ukraine Rises’ course in September which will focus on contemporary Ukrainian Politics in comparative perspective, and will continue to teach courses on Mass Protest and on Democratisation in eastern Europe and Latin America in which Ukraine will be a central reference case. These courses will also help to develop a pipeline for those interested in future doctoral study focused on Ukrainian politics in comparative perspective. 

The Professorship will also enable Onuch to undertake more public engagement and outreach activities with the inception of a keynote public lecture on Ukraine, as well as helping her to fundraise for further public facing events which engage the local community in Manchester and support Ukrainian refugees. She will also continue to expand on existing collaborations with organisations including the British Council in Ukraine, focusing on youth engagement.

Ultimately, a main goal of the Professorship is to develop a large centre focused on the comparative study of Ukrainian politics, elections, political participation and democratic resilience. Such a centre would aim to support UK, EU, North American and Ukrainian policymakers working on political reforms relating to EU accession, reconstruction, and civic duty, engagement and resilience in Ukraine and beyond.

As well as recognising Onuch’s expertise, the Professorship also demonstrates The University of Manchester’s leadership in supporting Ukrainian students and scholars seeking refuge following the Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine. The University was one of the first Higher Education Institutions in the UK to pledge large amounts of funding to supporting Ukrainian students when it committed £5million to establish a scholarship for students and scholars fleeing war. The University’s Social Responsibility Fund has also supported the academic-led Ukraine Hub UK, the setting up of a Ukraine focused Expert Task Force, and the was first UK University to host a Ukrainian Students Conference last year involving students from over 20 universities.

“I am very proud of the University of Manchester’s leadership in supporting Ukrainian students and scholars,” said Professor Onuch. “This Professorship will help to raise the profile of the comparative political science analysis of Ukraine as well as further raising the international profile of The University of Manchester, which is already a major leader in social science research and teaching.”

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My wish is that having this title hosted here will motivate more Ukrainian students to study at The University of Manchester, and that more students who want to learn about Ukraine will come to the university. I also hope that the first professorship to name Ukrainian Politics explicitly in the English speaking world brings my family and friends in Ukraine a bit of pride. Above all I hope that this move is not just a first, but rather that it starts a trend.  Professor Olga Onuch

“The appointment of the first Professor of Comparative and Ukrainian Politics is long overdue in the English speaking world and is a major milestone, not only for the Ukrainian community in the UK but also globally,” said Anna Dezyk MBE, Deputy Chair of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB). “Professor Onuch's enthusiasm and extensive expertise in this area provides a fantastic platform for the study of Ukrainian Politics to finally move out of the shadows and take its rightful place in academia.”

“The University of Manchester’s creation of this post could not have come at a more relevant time, and the appointment of Professor Olga Onuch could not be more appropriate and richly deserved,” said Leigh Gibson OBE, Ukraine Director for the British Council. “We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Olga and her department to understand more about the role young people have played in the development of Ukraine as a democratic nation, and the critical contribution they will make to recovery and rebuilding in the future.”

"It has never been more important for Ukraine to be genuinely understood and appreciated internationally," said Volodymyr Sheiko, Director General of the Ukrainian Institute. "Much of the knowledge about Ukraine, its history, politics, and culture emerges from leading academic institutions to inform public policies, curricula, and public opinion. Academic excellence makes our societies better informed and more resilient. The appointment of Olga Onuch as the first Professor of Ukrainian Politics in the English-speaking world is a crucial milestone to achieve this. I am confident that Olga’s profound experience and expertise will set a high standard for others to follow.”

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