Ukraines Universities face new Iron Curtain
The president of one of Eastern Europes oldest universities has written an open letter to the president of Ukraine to warn that draft legislation on higher education will reintroduce "authoritarian and centralised governmental control of higher education", degrade science and learning and erect a new Iron Curtain between Ukrainian and European institutions.
Sergiy Kvit, president of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (NaUKMA) in Kiev, has written to President Viktor Yanukovich. The letter has been copied to the chairman of the parliament and the prime minister.
It also warns that the "ill-conceived" changes drawn up by Dmytro Tabachnyk, Minister of Education, Science, Youth and Sport, will "lead to a self-imposed isolation of the country in the sphere of education, as well as to the unacceptable degradation of the nations science, education and economy" and should be dropped.
As president, Kvit has pioneered reform of doctoral education away from the Soviet-inspired aspirantura model, with a State Commission in charge of academic standardisation requirements.
These efforts have been supported by the European Union collaboration programme Tempus, involving the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, Sunderland and Leeds universities in the UK, Universitat Autonomy Barcelona, the EURODOC organisation of PhD students in Europe and the University of Bergen in Norway.
Kvit says the draft law will erect a new Iron Curtain between Ukrainian higher education institutions and those of the European Higher Education Area, because it:
* Does not adopt the Bologna three-cycle model.
* Does not mention the use of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System.
* Does not align with the European academic recognition system being set up through the Bologna process.
* Does not advocate interdisciplinary study programmes.
* Lacks a national strategy for lifelong learning and-or for the Ukrainian academic community to master the English language.
The draft law says Ukrainian candidates of sciences would automatically qualify for a PhD without introducing the structural programmes normally required to train PhD students.
Kvit claims it also puts his universitys status under threat, because of an "arbitrary" decision to decrease the number of higher education institutions in Ukraine on quantitative rather than qualitative criteria, by a requirement that a comprehensive university shall have at least 10,000 students. NaUKMA has 3,500.
In a separate letter to overseas supporters, Kvit accused the minister of trying to nullify the efforts of his university to integrate into the European Higher Education Area. NaUKMA was the first independent university in Ukraine to introduce bachelors, masters and PhD programmes and is the only university to be officially bilingual, using English as the second working language.
He said the minister had forbidden the use of English as a second language of instruction at the university and threatened repercussions because the institution refused to drop its entry requirement of a working knowledge of English, which it sees as essential for students to be able to understand lectures, access international research papers and eventually undertake joint research with peers from Europe and North America.
The higher education ministry has not replied to repeated requests by University World News for a comment on Kvits claims.
The minister has the equivalent of a doctorate degree in historical sciences, holds the title of professor and is a member of the Academy of Legal Sciences in Ukraine. But his appointment in March 2010 prompted a public outcry and demands for his removal.
As reported by University World News after the elections, Ukrainians are not optimistic about the continuation of the Bologna reform processes.
The Ukrainian Weekly reported last week that the legislation would eliminate NaUKMAs 12 to 15 interdisciplinary programmes, denying students the option to choose their course of study, a move it described as a "holdover from the Soviet era".
It said Tabachnyk had taken radical steps to integrate Ukrainian education with the Russian Federation.