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Higher education at the turn of social development


Фото. Михайло Згуровський

Independent Ukraine inherited a distorted system of higher education from the USSR. On the one hand, this system was developed enough as a part of the natural fundamental, technical, medical, pedagogical, military training, and on the other hand being mounted in the centrally planned economy, it was extremely insensitive to the changes, highly specialized, had excessive ideologization of the educational process, narrowed principles of democracy. Since 1991, the state faced the task to regulate the activities of such system in the new socio-political conditions, balance it with the needs of transition economy and society.

During the first decade of independence of Ukraine this first stage of education system as a whole transformation was made with the help of a number of laws, decrees of the President of Ukraine, government regulations, and departmental regulations. The legislation has normalized humanization and democratization of higher education, private education institutions operation, stepwise education, system of licensing and accreditation of higher education institutions, decentralization and regionalization of the educational departments, a new structure of training courses and specializations; the public influence on decision-making in education politics has strongly increased. The higher education system that functioned in these legal coordinates satisfied the society as a whole during the next decade. However, disparities between education, science and economy gradually evolved in the country and the tendencies of retention of higher education from internal needs of the state and global processes in this area have grown.

Thus, according to the US National Fund for Basic Research, during the past 10 years the higher education and science of Ukraine, on average, has moved from the 32nd to 41st place in the world and began to surrender even to a Cambridge University. Particularly, during the last decade Ukraine by the number of scientific publications with high impact factor was rapidly losing its position on around 3.6% per year. Reduction in the quality of human capital training started to affect directly on the loss of country competitiveness in the world. Production of high-tech products in Ukraine, which was created on the basis of new knowledge and its exports over the last 10 years was continuously decreasing. Thus, in 2001 the share of high-tech export in total export of Ukraine was 5.5% and in 2012 was about 4%, whereas, for example, the figure for the same period of time in China was rapidly increasing from 18 to 33%.

Based on 95 percent in the third (metal, chemical, agricultural industry) and fourth (petrochemistry, outdated energetics, heavy machinery) technological modes economy of Ukraine worked with efficiency 3-6% and created about one to two degrees lower value added price per unit of product compared with the economies of the fifth and sixth modes, which dominate in the world (electronics, computers, telecommunicational equipment, software, robotics, information services, biomedical engineering). As a result, having permanent negative trade balance, which in 2012 reached 15 billion US dollars to meet domestic needs and maintain loans, Ukraine was continually rolling into the debt trap. During the independence its national debt increased in 20 times and by the end of 2012 reached 500 billion UAH, representing 138% of the state budget (362 billion UAH). Retrogressive economy led to the reduction on 37% of training with the help of innovative and creative model (development of new technological modes) for low intelligent, reproductive education (maintenance of old technology modes and the provision of services), which ultimately resulted in national educational qualifications decrease.

Conclusion: Ukraine exhausted feed processing, low-tech drifts of its development. Refocusing on the high-tech way of further progress, the state has to bet solely on human capital rather than natural, infrastructural or industrial resources, to include competitive science and
advanced education among the main drivers of its economy.

So at the beginning of the third decade of the state independence to the public came the understanding, that the current Law of Ukraine "On Higher Education" used up its regulatory
and reformative resource and does not meet the dictates of times and international standards.
There was an urgent need to reorient the national system of higher education and science on preparation of such human capital, which would provide innovative development of the country
through close cooperation between higher education, science, business and government. The next steps are university autonomy extension in line with European standards, the introduction of European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) into the higher education of Ukraine, strengthening the interaction of higher education and the labor market, the establishment of the equality principle of higher education institutions of all forms of ownership and their teaching personnel, improvement in social protection of teachers and students, expansion of young people access to higher education, regardless of their social and financial position, combating to corruption in higher education and other advanced European standards.

Conceptually higher education reforming can be based on the following principles:

1. In this new model one of the most important tasks is a clear distinction of powers between the three levels of the educational hierarchy: organs of state education administration, public institutions, which provide the high quality of higher education and science (
State Commission for Academic Degrees and Titles, State Inspection of educational institutions of Ukraine, Ukrainian Center for Educational Quality Assessment) and universities.

State policy in higher education should be developed and implemented at the level of public education. This policy should answer the following questions: what external and internal challenges the country is facing? How to respond to these challenges using the capabilities of national science and appropriately trained human capital? What scientific schools can prepare this human capital? What conditions should be created for these scientific schools to perform the task?

For example, after the election of Barack Obama for the first presidential term in 2008
he drew attention of the U.S. university community to the weak mathematical training in American universities, which threatened the country’s loss of as a global leader role in strategic perspective. As a result, university programs on mathematics were revised, learning conditions of students in these programs were improved, their motivation was enhanced.

The substitution of development function of education policy with small control of current operations of the universities, on the one hand, leads to vacuum of the active state education and science policy, on the other hand, it deprive the universities of the initiative and commitment to creative labor.

The second level of the education hierarchy is given to development of standards in higher
education, directions accreditation, development and implementation of criteria and methodologies for the quality of educational and research activities assessment, certification of the scientists with the highest qualification.

Universities have to perform the full range of educational scientific, educational and innovational activities independently, turn out decisions on current issues of society development, based on the principles of university autonomy and academic freedoms in higher school. The principle is that new, necessary for the progress of society knowledge can be worked out only in the free academic environments, in the centers of independent university mind. And the state should be interested in the existence of such independent mind centers as they could could help to work out these critical knowledge. Having them at hand, the state can provide further progress of the society. This type of partnership between the government and the academic community would allow the state to make the most daring and important changes and, conversely, the relationship between the government and universities, based on the hard management, fine control and regulation would lead the country to its decadency. In its resolution in 2006 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) stated: "History has proved that a violation of academic freedom and university autonomy will always lead to the intellectual void and, consequently, to social and economic stagnation ".

2. The next steps are the introduction of the full European three-level stage system of
education (Bachelor, Master, PhD) and European Credit Transfer System ECTS. In addition, the traditional Ukrainian education levels of junior specialist and Doctor of Science academic degree
should be preserved. It is highly important to link the level education of Ukraine with National Classifiation Frame and ECTS. This will, on the one hand, provide a clear understanding of the place of educational levels of higher education in the labor market of Ukraine (especially BA), and, on the other hand, to ensure their recognition in the European education space.

3. In the short term, the state should go for legislative support of the full-fledged branch of professional education in Ukraine, to which refer 976 vocational schools and over 600 education institutions with I-II levels of accreditation by removing the last from the system of higher
education. This branch should provide the training of more than 800,000 highly qualified workers and career-oriented young professionals who became extremely in demand in the economy of Ukraine.

4. Given the experience of the European countries for which the important norm is separation of the functions of education policy developments and monitoring outcomes of its implementation between the various independent agencies, it is worth to launch the independent, permanent collegial body responsible for assessment and providing the quality of human capital in Ukraine. It also should be responsible for the accreditation of educational activities of the universities and highly qualified scientific personnel certification. It is advisable to depart from the issuance of state-recognized degree to the graduates of all higher education institutions. We should allow the licensed universities to issue certificates on their behalf, transforming the system of accreditation to the institute of educational services quality control, not its assurance. Being allowed to "freewheel", each university will very quickly find its "niche" and gain its assessment of the labor market. In turn, the labor market will become less disoriented by the state in this regard. Talking about quality of education assurance, each university of Ukraine should solve this problem independently, passing through the national system of its evaluation and in the future joining the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) in the process of Bologna transformations.

Unfortunately, in the report of the European Commission "The European Higher Education Area in 2012: Bologna Process Implementation Report " Ukraine on the basis of independence of the quality evaluation system of higher education and of the level of international involvement in the external quality assurance of higher education was presented as a country that does not comply with European standards and guidelines.

5. The main mechanism of innovative development of economy and society includes exacerbation of interaction between education, science, business and government on the basis of their mutual interest in cooperation. Unfortunately, since Ukraine's independence the organic connection were not lined between them in law. Therefore, on the new stage the state should give greater attention to the creation of powerful regional educational research and innovation centers on the basis of leading universities or associations of universities and research institutions, around which competitive education and research, high-tech business with the coordinating role of regional authorities should be concentrated.

6. In this model, employers should expand their participation in the preparation of training programs of the universities, in developing and approving the standards for higher education in each branch of education and science, in forming the criteria of competence of graduates of higher education, in providing places of undergraduate training, in the development of material resources, in cooperation in areas of Science and Innovation. It would be justified to introduce the additional tax and customs exemptions for business in its cooperation with national university research. The intangible assets established in the scientific community in the form of intellectual property should necessarily be put on universities’ balance and effective mechanisms for their commercialization in the business environment should be implemented. Through common participation in providing academic component in the preparation of the PhDs, the real conditions for close cooperation between universities, national and industrial academies should be created.

7. As part of European integration Ukraine should continue coordination of national higher education system with ECTS and ENQA. Conditions should be created for returning back the citizens of Ukraine who got the education abroad, by recognition of the foreign diplomas for higher education, degrees and academic statuses at enrollment and/or hiring. Due to improvements in learning foreign languages (especially English) and country studies, should be significantly expanded academic mobility and teachers, researchers and students participation in international educational and scientific projects.

8. Extremely severe issue for Ukraine under conditions of limited government budget is to determine the state order for specialist training. Unfortunately, this problem can not be solved efficiently, while the country has no state policy in education, particularly higher. So today no one knows how much, on which areas and with what educational and scientific conditions professionals have to be trained in Ukraine to solve the state pressing problems, for example, in the short term join the ranks of the twenty most developed countries, in accordance with the objectives set out by the President of Ukraine.

Under these conditions, the state order can be determined by taking into account the current social criteria and the intention of preservation the minimum educational qualifications of the population, not with a view to achieve new goals of society development. Given this, it seems appropriate to determine the volume of state demand for the universities to be not less than 51% of the school graduates. 80% of state order placement could be in accordance with needs of the state on the university proposals from the previous year figures. Placement of the remaining 20% could be held by the formula "money for a student" that is according to the average competition score between the entrants of the current year. Thus for the securement of the required number of highly educated people in society, masters’ state demand should have been set at a level not less than 50% of the graduated bachelors in the current year, at the PhDs - not less than 10% of the masters. To ensure the transparency of these critical decisions the information about state order should have been posted on the official website of the Ministry no later than on the 1st October of the year preceding the admission one, and information about its volume on the university level should have been made public within 10 calendar days from the date of such placement.

9. As part of democratization of higher education, by the example of developed countries, it is important to establish the principle of equality of all higher education institutions of all forms of ownership and their teaching personnel. The guarantees of citizens’ equal access to higher education should be extending by improving Exam Focus Complex Tests in the direction of its higher sensitivity to the applicants’ creative abilities. In cooperation with employers it is important to develop the mechanisms to encourage the development of "lifelong learning" system. It is necessary to return to a democratic procedure for the rectors’ election based on casting voice of the workforce. By European standards the rector’s stay in office should be limited to two terms of election.

10. Given the fact that at the beginning of the third decade of independence of Ukraine, over
50% of young people can not obtain a higher education due to growing poverty of the majority of the country population, social protection of students and university teachers gets more urgent character. In such situation, the reasonable step is to determine the minimum bursary at a level not lower than the minimum subsistence rate, and the immutability of tuition fee throughout the whole period of study.

11. In order to make anti-corruption enforcement in higher education, the Exam Focus Complex Tests system should have further development and consolidation. It makes sense to expand public control at all levels of the universities’ activity, including the ensuring of access of individuals and entities to the information in higher education. Universities should introduce effective system of counterbalances and restraints between the supervisor, the Academic Council, local authorities, civic organizations. According to the European tradition, the authority of the Rector and the Academic Council of the university should be separated.

These and other conceptual principles could form the basis for the reform of higher education at the present stage. In view of the fact that from this reform, without exaggeration, depends the future of our country, the new Law of Ukraine "On Higher Education" should consolidate the best points elaborated in recent years from the six known draft bills. It has to absorb the proposals of public authorities, educational and research institutions, international professional organizations and the public. In process of revision and discussion the draft bill should be open to the public on the Internet. We should understand that life will approve only those of its points, which will be elaborated and accepted by public consensus.

Michael Zgurovsky | «Mirror of the week. Ukraine », № 5, February 8 – 15 February 2013

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