Traditions of Higher Education in Ukraine

Currently Ukraine is building an open society, and as the educational opportunities widen, the question of making Ukrainian education comparable to that of the West emerges. The Ukrainian educational system has been in the process of reform since 1992 when the new Education Law (June 4, 1991) became active. The Ministry of Education remains the only accrediting body and both public and independent institutions alike may conduct educational activities and offer degrees or qualifications only when accredit with the Ministry of Education. The following accreditation levels and categories of institutions in Ukraine were recently instituted:


Accreditation Institutions AwardsLevel (article 36, “Law of Education”)
Level I Vocational// Technical Schools Diploma with the (UCHILISHCHE) professional qualification
Level II: Colleges Diploma with the professional qualification or Bachelor’sdegree
Levels III, IV Institutes, Conservatories, Diploma of,Universities, Academies Specialista, Bachelor (Bakalavr) Magister

Institutions of levels I and II may be compared to technical and vocational schools in Western countries. According to the new Education Law (article 34), institutions of the I and II accreditation levels are considered to be institutions of higher education in comparison to their status before 1992 when they were considered specialized secondary education institutions. They can exist separately or be affiliated with other institutions. For example, in June 1996 according, to a Ministry of Education decision, the Kyiv River School (level I) was merged with the Odessa State Marine Academy. This unit was renamed, and now called Kyiv State Marine Academy and offers programs of levels I and III. Admission requirements to the program of the I accreditation level are typical: completion of 9 (8)* or 11 (10)* years of secondary education plus certain entrance examinations such as Ukrainian Language and Mathematics. The total length of the program is correspondingly 3.7 or 2.7 years. Students which had an incomplete secondary education study subjects typically offered in the final years of secondary school. They also study subjects connected with their future profession. Upon graduation, they receive an Attestat of Completed Secondary Education in addition to the Diploma (of Specialist) with the Professional Qualification. Students with completed secondary education learn major­related subjects as well as other subjects such as the social sciences. Upon completion of the program, they receive a Diploma with the Professional Qualification. Programs of the Level III have standard admission and graduation requirements described below and award their graduates a Bachelors Degree.

Many of the institutions of the II accreditation level, known as TECHNICUMS prior to 1992, have changed their names to COLLEGES after the new education law was adopted. Until 1992, they offered two types of programs that differed in entrance and graduation requirements and, correspondingly, the degrees offered. The first type of program did not require students to have a completed secondary education in order to apply; their educational plans were similar to those at institutions of the Level I, and graduates received a Diploma with the Professional Qualification. Since institutions of the Level II accreditation are considered to be institutions of higher education, there was a tendency to admit students only with a completed secondary education to the second type of program. Therefore, many institutions have changed their standard admission requirements and course outline so that only applicants with a completed secondary education may apply. The standard length of a program is 4 years and the award is a Bachelor’s Degree. Only when a Ukrainian “College” provides the second type of program which leads to a Bachelor’s degree may it be compared to colleges and similar institutions in Western countries.

There is a slight difference between institutions of the III and IV accreditation levels. Institutes are normally on the III level, and Universities and Academies usually rank at IV level. The term “Institute” in Ukraine means a full grown institution of higher education in comparison to the traditional meaning of the term in Western countries where “Institutes” are usually highly specialized professional (technical) institutions. Since 1992, when many institutions were re­evaluated and granted a higher accreditation level, they changed parts of their names. For example, Kiev Polytechnic Institute (III level), or KPI was granted the IV level and in 1995 became the National Technical University of Ukraine, or NTUU. In addition, the degrees offered at NTUU were changed according new educational priorities. Now NTUU, awards a Bakalavr (Bachelor’s) Degree and Diploma of Specialist instead of just the traditional Diploma of Specialist as before 1995. For the “Bakalavr” Degree, students must meet the following requirements: complete four years of formal education; successfully pass State examinations after the fourth year (each semester, students must pass end­ of­ terms examination, which are not STATE examinations); and complete the final course work. The Institution encourages students to complete a full traditional program of 5,5 length which leads to either the Diploma of Specialist or Master’s (Magister) degree. Frequently, the Master’s requires an additional semester of study. The main difference between these two programs is that the first one, leading to the Diploma of Specialist (engineer), is professionally oriented and its purpose is to encourage and facilitate qualified specialists to enter work in Ukrainian industries. Entrance requirements to the program are Bakalavr’s degree and student’s desire. The other program (leads to the Master’s Degree) is oriented toward a scientific/research career. Entrance requirements are Bachelor’s degree and outstanding academic achievements.

Traditional Ukrainian (Soviet) education, especially in sciences and engineering, was always highly specialized. The main goal of institutions was to prepare professionals to start their career immediately upon completion of the course of study. Therefore, curriculum included only mandatory field­related courses and a tiny portion of non­related subjects like social sciences or humanities. A change of major, double major or concentration in a specific field were uncharacteristic for traditional educational institutions.

From this point of view, private institutions that have been founded since 1992 are more flexible with admission and graduation requirements and course offerings. The National University Kyiv Mohyla Academy (NaUKMA), re­established in 1992, can serve as a good example of this. This institution uses a Western model of education and may be compared to independent small liberal arts colleges in the USA (the total number of students enrolled is 1100). Also, it was one of the first institutions in Ukraine to offer a Bachelor’s degree to graduates instead of the traditional Diploma of Specialist. Currently, there are four Departments offering a Bachelor’s Degree: Natural Sciences, Humanities, Social Sciences, and Law, and two new programs in Computer Science and Social Work. The curriculum of the Kyiv­Mohyla Academy is designed so that students must complete 4 years of formal education in order to receive a Bachelor’s degree and an additional two years to complete a program leading toward a Master’s degree. The main thing that makes NaUKMA different from traditional state­supported institutions is flexibility in course planning. Apart from the mandatory courses that are taught in English and Ukrainian students may take electives that are also taught in both languages. Students also allowed to change their majors which was impossible in traditional state­supported institutions. In 1994 Kyiv­Mohyla Academy was honored as a highest accreditation level ­­ IV, and Educational Programs of the Academy were approved by a Special Council of UNESCO experts.

When Ukrainian students apply to educational institutions abroad there is always the question of transferability and evaluation of their courses. Every particular admission case should be carefully revised because changes and revisions in Ukrainian education occur almost daily and this process will continue into the foreseen future. Generally, though the Ukrainian “University” lacks a full range of disciplines normally offered by Western universities, it should not be considered deficient in quality. The main thing to look for when a Ukrainian student’s academic record is to make sure placement was at accreditation levels III­IV.

* Until 1991, secondary education in Ukraine was based on 10 years.

thomas davisthomas davis