On November 17, 2023, the classical Karazin University celebrates the 219th anniversary since its foundation. This date serves as another occasion to contemplate the role and mission of the university in contemporary Ukraine, to establish new guidelines, and set new, relevant goals, especially in the context of the current military situation.

Much like two centuries ago, today, there is an active transfer of Western European ideas into university education. In the 19th century, European ideas were transmitted by foreign professors who came to teach from Germany, France, Italy, and other countries. Local professors and students had the opportunity to become acquainted with European university thought, including those who were able to visit foreign universities. More recently, with the onset of full-scale conflict, the transfer of ideas has significantly intensified. A considerable number of Ukrainian students and scholars have gone abroad, and there has been a notable increase in international research projects and mobility opportunities.

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Without a shadow of a doubt, the university must develop based on European values and according to the principle defined by Wilhelm von Humboldt: the principle of the two freedoms, freedom of learning, and freedom of teaching. However, we must also take into account the local specifics, the country's developmental course, and the prevailing societal situation. Modern Ukraine is a country of spiritual knights, fighters, and heroes, a country of people who stand up for democratic values. The safety and future of Europe depend on the struggles and efforts of Ukrainians. In this context, the mission of the modern Ukrainian university has undergone significant changes. The tasks we faced before the quarantine have been supplemented by the challenges brought about by the pandemic. The challenges of the pandemic era have taken a back seat with the onset of the full-scale phase of the war. Furthermore, even the university of 2022 significantly differs from the university of 2023. Only the ability to respond quickly and effectively to the challenges of the time and changes in the direction of development will contribute to the further qualitative development of university education.

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In its time, the traditional motto of Karazin University, “Cognoscere. Docere. Erudire” (“To Learn. To Teach. To Enlighten”), has given way to a more suitable formulation: “Classics Ahead of Time.” In 2022, considering the realities of daily life, we formulated a new mission, “Education Despite the War.” Over time, we increasingly turn to discussing and expanding the content of this mission.

The main building of Karazin University. Photo by University pres-service.

As it enters the new year of its existence, Karazin University is embarking on a new set of priorities and focuses. Not only educational and enlightening functions but also the national-patriotic role of the university come to the fore. The university should be a place for the upbringing and formation of a national-conscious citizen, a fighter, and a competent professional who is deeply familiar with the history and culture of their own country and can easily navigate the realities of the modern world.

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When defining these new priorities, there may be a temptation to push the past and traditions into the background. This temptation can become a trap leading nowhere. The experience of a classical university is of utmost importance here, as it possesses powerful academic schools and educational heritage. Answers to countless questions can be found in the practices of the past, transforming these practices to fit the current situation.

When considering the aspects of national-patriotic education, it's worth mentioning the unique precedents of the struggle for national rights and freedoms that occurred at Karazin University even during the imperial era. This includes the first lecture in the Ukrainian language in 1906, delivered by Professor Mykola Sumtsov. It includes the conferring of an honorary doctorate by the university to Ivan Franko. It encompasses the activities of the Ukrainian student community, where the slogan “Glory to Ukraine” was already spreading. There are numerous such precedents. These are our traditions, on which we rely when shaping the future. And in these traditions, the classical university has an advantage.

Karazinites in the first months of the full-scale stage of the war. Photo by University pres-service.

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Today, we live in Ukraine, a country fighting for Victory while losing the most valuable of all – the lives of its people. Our heroic nation unquestionably deserves the best future. This future will be built by our children. Therefore, the mission of the university is to educate, teach, and support our creative youth, and together with them, put all efforts into bringing Victory closer and then into the rebuilding and prosperity of our victorious Ukraine. As the honorary doctor of Karazin University, George Shevelov, emphasized, “National pride is the root and foundation of everything.”

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