Higher education [вища освіта; vyshcha osvita]. The highest level of formal schooling in academic, professional, or technical fields, which is accessible only to students who have completed a secondary education. The origin of higher education in Ukraine can be traced back to the confessional colleges that arose in the period of religious strife (16th–17th century). The colleges organized by the Jesuits served as a model for similar Orthodox and later Uniate schools. According to their standard curriculum, which consisted of three lower grades (infima, grammar, and syntax) and two intermediate grades (poetics and rhetoric) and required six years to complete, these schools were institutions of secondary education. Yet some of them offered courses belonging to the higher grades (philosophy, requiring three years, and theology, requiring four years) that were typical of academies. The Jesuits established a number of such higher colleges in Ukrainian and Belarusian territories: in Vilnius (est 1570, academy from 1578), Lviv (1608), Orsha (beginning of 17th century), Brest (first quarter of the 17th century), Pynsk (1633), Ostroh (1624, added philosophy in 1636), Vitsebsk (ca 1640), Dorohychyn (1661), Minsk (ca 1650, added philosophy and theology at the end of the 17th century), and Kamianets-Podilskyi (1611, added philosophy at the end of the 17th century). A full higher education could be obtained by Ukrainians only at the Jesuit-run academy in Lviv (1661–1763), Vilnius, Zamość (see Zamostia Academy), or Cracow. Despite its name, the Ostroh Academy (est ca 1580 by the Orthodox Prince Kostiantyn Vasyl Ostrozky) did not offer a higher education. The only Orthodox college that provided a partial higher education was the Kyivan Mohyla College (est 1632). In spite of a royal prohibition (1635), philosophy and theology courses were offered at the school on an irregular basis until philosophy and theology grades were permanently established as part of the curriculum in the 1680s. It was only in 1701 that the school was recognized officially as an academy (see Kyivan Mohyla Academy). Among the numerous Uniate colleges run by the Basilian monastic order only a few—in Zhyrovichy, Buchach, and Volodymyr-Volynskyi—introduced some courses of the higher grades in the 18th century.
The first university in Ukraine—Lviv University—was founded in 1784 by Emperor Joseph II. The language of instruction was Latin, but literary Ukrainian (Ruthenian) of the period was used in the Studium Ruthenum, a special institute of the university for educating candidates for the Uniate priesthood. The German character of the university was underlined when German was adopted as the language of instruction in 1817. During the Revolution of 1848–9 in the Habsburg monarchy the Ukrainians won some concessions in university education: a Ukrainian chair in the Department of Theology was established in 1848 and the first Chair of Ukrainian (Ruthenian) Language and Literature was set up in the following year. In 1849 and 1860 the central authorities declared their intention to convert Lviv University gradually into a Ukrainian institution. Two Ukrainian chairs were set up in the law department in 1862. Under strong political pressure from the Poles, however, the central government eventually abandoned this policy: in 1871 it recognized the university as a bilingual institution by replacing German with Ukrainian and Polish as the languages of instruction, and in 1879 it approved the Polonization of the university, by accepting Polish as the language of the institution’s internal administration. Although a few other Ukrainian chairs were established, the population’s educational needs were not met and by the turn of the century the Ukrainians in Galicia demanded their own university. The broad campaign for a separate Ukrainian university persisted for many years and erupted occasionally into violence. Finally, in 1912 the Austrian authorities promised to establish a Ukrainian university, but were prevented from doing so by the First World War.
In Russian-ruled Ukraine a number of university projects were drawn up in the 18th century. Hetman Kyrylo Rozumovsky in 1760 proposed to establish a university in Baturyn. Under Catherine II Ukrainian deputies to the Legislative Commission of 1767–9 demanded that a university be founded in Kyiv or Pereiaslav. The nobility of the Sumy region and the Chernihiv region collected funds to build universities in their respective capitals. Prince Grigorii Potemkin fostered a plan to open a university in Katerynoslav. The first university in Russian-ruled Ukraine was finally established in Kharkiv in 1805 (see Kharkiv National University). The project proposed by Vasyl Karazyn became a reality as a result of his persistent efforts and the generosity of the local nobility. Although the language of instruction was Russian, as in all higher schools in Russian-ruled Ukraine, the university became the home of the Kharkiv Romantic School and played an important role in the Ukrainian cultural renaissance and national awakening in the 19th century.
In 1820 the Bezborodko Gymnasium of Higher Education, later known as the Nizhyn Lyceum, was opened in Nizhyn. Its nine-year program was more demanding than that of a secondary level and compared favorably with that offered by Russian universities.
Kyiv University was founded in 1834 in place of the abolished Kremianets Lyceum whose Polish student body had taken part in the Polish Insurrection of 1830–1. Mykhailo Maksymovych, a pioneer of Ukrainian ethnography, literary studies, and history, served as the university’s first rector. The first generation of students was predominantly Polish. Eventually, Ukrainians and Russians formed a majority.
The origins of higher technical education in Ukraine date back to 1844 when the Lviv Higher Polytechnical School (now Lviv Polytechnic National University) was opened. The Farming Academy in Dubliany (est 1855) was the only higher agricultural school in Western Ukraine before the First World War. In Russian-ruled Ukraine the veterinary school of Kharkiv University (est 1839) was reorganized in 1851 into an independent, higher veterinary medicine school, and then in 1873 into the Kharkiv Veterinary Institute. A number of higher technical schools were founded in the late 19th century: the Kharkiv Technological Institute (1885), a commercial institute in Kyiv (1896; see Kyiv Commercial Institute), the Kyiv Polytechnical Institute (1898), and the Katerynoslav Higher Mining School (1899). In 1915 the agricultural institute in Novo-Aleksandriia (now Puławy, Poland) was evacuated to Kharkiv and reorganized into the Institute of Agriculture and Forestry (later Kharkiv Agricultural Institute).
In 1863, during the period of liberalization under Alexander II, the universities were granted limited autonomy (election of rectors and professors, reduction in administrative surveillance), concessions that were revoked in 1884. During this period another university was established in Ukraine: New Russia University (now Odesa National University), formed in 1865 out of the Richelieu Lyceum, which until 1837 was a secondary, rather than a higher, institution of learning. In Austrian-ruled Ukraine a German university with a Chair of Ukrainian Language and Literature was established in Chernivtsi in 1875 (see Chernivtsi National University).
Higher education became accessible to women only in the second half of the 19th century (see Education of women). In 1870 the Russian Ministry of Public Education permitted women to attend public lectures, and special courses began to be organized for them. The Higher Courses for Women were set up at Kyiv University in 1878, but were closed down by the authorities in 1885. The situation improved only after the Revolution of 1905: private higher schools for women were opened in Kyiv; the Higher Courses for Women at the university were revived in 1906 and were renamed the Saint Olha’s Women’s Institute in 1914; and similar private schools appeared in Odesa in 1906 and in Kharkiv in 1907. Professional education for women was available at women’s medical institutes in Kyiv (1910), Kharkiv (1910), Odesa (1910), and Katerynoslav (1916), and at the Froebelian pedagogical courses in Kyiv and Kharkiv. From 1906 to 1909 women were permitted to attend universities.
After the Revolution of 1905 the question of university courses in Ukrainian studies was raised, but the authorities, supported by Russian faculty, prohibited any instruction in this field. The Russian system of higher education in Ukraine was elitist. In 1914 there were only 27,000 students attending 19 institutions of higher learning, and most of them were from the nobility.
After the February Revolution of 1917, new higher schools appeared in Ukraine: the Ukrainian People's University in Kyiv, a commercial institute in Kharkiv and Kharkiv Conservatory, the Odesa Agricultural Institute, the Ukrainian State Academy of Arts, and the Ukrainian Pedagogical Academy in Kyiv. At the same time existing higher schools began to be Ukrainianized and chairs of Ukrainian language, literature, the history of Ukraine, and legal history were set up at existing universities. In 1918 the Ukrainian People's University was transformed by the Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky’s decree into the Ukrainian State University of Kyiv (while Saint Vladimir University remained Russian), and new universities were set up in Katerynoslav (now Dnipro National University), Simferopol (Tavriia University, now Tavriia National Universityy), and Kamianets-Podilskyi (Kamianets-Podilskyi Ukrainian State University). At the same time the Ukrainian Historical-Philological Faculty in Poltava and the Ukrainian Teachers' Institute in Zhytomyr were opened.
When the Bolsheviks came to power Ukraine’s people's commissar of education, Hryhorii Hrynko (1920–3), abolished the universities, transforming them into institutes of people's education (INO), to which a number of newly created teachers' institutes were added. Among the administrative changes were the reorganization of the medical faculties of universities into separate institutes and the absorption of the faculties of law by the new institutes of the national economy. Tekhnikums, which in Ukraine, unlike in Russia, were higher technical schools, trained narrow specialists in various technical fields. Institutes were devoted exclusively to teaching, while research and the preparation of scholars and scientists were the responsibility of autonomous scientific research chairs. Many subjects were taught by the laboratory-brigade method, which precluded individual testing. This system of higher education, known as the Hrynko System, was unique to Ukraine.
In Soviet Ukraine, institutions of higher education lacked any autonomy. Rectors were appointed by the people's commissar of education, and often their political credentials, rather than academic qualifications, were decisive. Access to higher education was made difficult for people of ‘non-labor origin’; nonetheless, 43 percent of the students attending institutes were offspring of white-collar workers. Candidates seeking admission to higher educational establishments had to produce references from Party, trade unions, or Communist Youth League of Ukraine organizations. Workers' faculties (robitfaky) were established to prepare students of worker or poor peasant origin for admission to higher education.
During the 1920s an effort was made to Ukrainianize higher education. The first step was to introduce courses with Ukrainian content: Ukrainian history, Ukrainian language, literature, and economic geography became compulsory for all students. The second step was to introduce Ukrainian as a language of instruction. By 1928, out of 38 institutes, 11 offered instruction only in Ukrainian and 24 in both Ukrainian and Russian, and out of 126 tekhnikums, 46 offered instruction only in Ukrainian and 34 in both Ukrainian and Russian. Beginning in 1925, a knowledge of Ukrainian became, in many regions, a condition for admission to higher education or for graduation. By 1927 these requirements applied to all higher educational establishments in Ukraine.
Ukrainians were underrepresented among students of higher education. In 1928 they accounted for 54 percent of the 33,400 students at institutes (Russians represented 16 percent, Jews 25 percent), 63 percent of the 26,900 students at tekhnikums, and 53 percent of the 9,800 students at workers' faculties. Women accounted for approximately a quarter of the enrollment at institutes. In 1925 only a third of the teaching staff in institutes and 43 percent at tekhnikums gave Ukrainian as their nationality. The lack of Ukrainian-speaking faculty and hostility to Ukrainian among Russian teachers stymied the Ukrainization process. In addition to these difficulties, the Ukrainian system of higher education did not receive the financial support that the Russian system did from the all-Union budget. In spite of this, by 1929 Ukraine had a higher per capita enrollment in higher education than Russia and its rate of growth was faster than in Russia.
Between 1929 and 1934 the system of higher education in Ukraine was reorganized to conform with that in the rest of the USSR. Most institutes (technical, economic, agricultural, medical) were transferred from the jurisdiction of the People's Commissariat of Education (NKO) to that of appropriate commissariats, leaving only pedagogical institutes and art institutes under the NKO. Tekhnikums in 1928 were transformed into either institutes or specialized secondary schools (see Secondary special education). In 1934 Kyiv University, Kharkiv University, Odesa University, and Dnipropetrovsk University were restored. The institutes of social education, of vocational education, and of political education, into which INO’s were divided in 1930, were transformed into pedagogical institutes. The laboratory-brigade method was abolished and traditional requirements and teaching methods were restored. Programs, textbooks, and examinations were standardized. University and institute chairs resumed research activities that had been confined to special research chairs.
With rapid industrialization in the 1930s, higher educational facilities were expanded greatly to meet the needs of industry. The number of institutions of higher learning increased sharply from 42 in 1929 to 173 in 1940 (including correspondence courses), and the student population expanded from 40,890 to 196,800. The preferential admission of working-class and poor peasant students to higher education was gradually abandoned as the quality of graduates was stressed. Even tuition fees, a prerevolutionary practice favoring the children of the elite, were instituted from 1940 to 1956. In 1936, 44 percent of university students were offspring of white-collar workers; 40 percent, of workers; and a mere 13 percent, of peasants. In 1933 Ukrainization was halted and the Ukrainian faculty and student body of higher educational institutions were purged. As a result the proportion of Ukrainian students dropped from 55 percent in 1933 to 53 percent in 1935. The proportion of Ukrainian research staff declined from 49 percent in 1929 to 31 percent in 1934, while the proportion of Russians increased from 30 to 50 percent. Many leading Ukrainian scholars perished during the Stalinist terror of the 1930s. A concerted effort was made to promote Russian language and subjects in higher education (see Russification).
After the First World War the Polish authorities in Galicia abolished the Ukrainian chairs at Lviv University (even Ukrainian philology had to be taught in Polish), and restricted the admission of Ukrainian students. As a result the Lviv (Underground) Ukrainian University was established in 1921. In 1922–3 the Lviv (Underground) Ukrainian Higher Polytechnical School with a one-year curriculum was opened at the underground university. Harassed by Polish authorities and refused recognition by the Polish government, the university dissolved in 1925. Talks on the establishment of a Ukrainian state university collapsed when the Polish authorities rejected Lviv as a possible location and the Ukrainians rejected Stanyslaviv or Cracow. The Greek Catholic Theological Academy in Lviv (est 1928) was the only officially recognized Ukrainian institution of higher learning in interwar Poland. Chairs of Ukrainian studies existed at Polish universities in Cracow and Warsaw, in addition to one at Lviv University.
After the First World War a number of Ukrainian organizations abroad founded the Ukrainian Free University in Vienna in 1921. Having received recognition and financial support from the Czechoslovak government, it was transferred to Prague. Another higher school, the Ukrainian Husbandry Academy (est 1922), operated in Poděbrady until 1935, when it was transformed into a correspondence school—the Ukrainian Technical and Husbandry Institute. Both schools were evacuated to Munich just before the arrival of the Soviet Army in 1945. The Ukrainian Higher Pedagogical Institute in Prague was supported by the Czechoslovak government from 1923 to 1933.
After the Second World War Ukraine’s system of higher education expanded, but its accessibility to Ukrainians has remained a problem. New universities were established in the Ukrainian SSR: Uzhhorod University (1945), Donetsk University (1965), Simferopol University (1972, having been abolished in 1925), and Zaporizhia University (1985). Lviv University and Chernivtsi University, and the Lviv Polytechnic, were incorporated into the Soviet system. Except for pedagogical schools, medical schools, and art schools, the institutions of higher education in Ukraine were under the direct control of the Union Ministry of Higher and Specialized Secondary Education. A republican Ministry of Higher and Specialized Secondary Education, established in 1955 (only in the case of Ukraine), gave the republic a voice in the running of its higher educational system, but only until 1959, when the Union-Republic Ministry of Higher and Specialized Secondary Education was set up in Moscow. In 1965 only 50 of the 132 higher educational institutions in Ukraine were under the republic’s jurisdiction. Postgraduate programs in Ukraine could only be established with Moscow’s permission. It was not possible, for example, to obtain in Ukraine a doctorate in pedagogy.
At the same time pressures for the Russification of higher education in Ukraine increased. In 1954 the compulsory entrance examination in Ukrainian, but not in Russian language and literature, was dropped. Proposals to Ukrainianize higher education put forward by Ukraine’s Party leadership in 1965 were blocked by Moscow. Of the 75,027 students attending the republic’s eight universities (1965), 61 percent were Ukrainian; 56 percent of the faculty were Ukrainian, but only 34 percent lectured in Ukrainian. Almost 70 percent of the subjects taught at the universities were not supplied with Ukrainian-language textbooks. The granting of degrees was under the supervision of the Supreme Attestation Commission in Moscow, which encouraged postgraduate students to write their dissertations in Russian (from 1944 to 1960, 86 percent of the dissertations accepted at Lviv University were written in Russian). The preference for Russian in higher education meant that Ukrainian-speaking students were disadvantaged in the competition with Russian-speaking students for admission to establishments of higher education. Furthermore, higher education in Ukraine, as throughout the Soviet Union, was biased in favor of the upper strata of society. In 1965, for example, 70 percent of first-year students at Kharkiv University were the offspring of white-collar workers; 23 percent, of workers; and only 7 percent, of collective farmers. Since Ukrainians were underrepresented in the upper stratum, this bias further restricted access to higher education for Ukrainians. As a result, although in 1956 Ukrainians accounted for 64 percent of the enrollment in higher educational institutions in Ukraine, in 1971 they accounted for only 60 percent. There is evidence of outright discrimination against Ukrainians: a secret instruction issued in 1974 restricted the admission of local students to institutions of higher learning in Western Ukraine to 25 percent of the freshman class. The percentage of women among students increased from 47 percent in 1970–1 to 54 percent in 1983–4. Under Nikita Khrushchev’s regime (1955–64) institutions of higher education were consolidated and their number decreased. Higher education ‘that did not lose contact with production,’ ie, evening and extramural education, was promoted. This policy led to a decline in the quality of graduates and was reversed in 1964, after Khrushchev’s fall.
The territorial distribution of institutions of higher learning in Ukraine was very uneven. The major centers in 1983–4 were Kharkiv oblast (21 of 146 such institutions for all Ukraine and 15 percent of the enrollment), the city of Kyiv (18 institutions and 17 percent of enrollment), Odesa oblast (15 and 10 percent), Dnipropetrovsk oblast (12 and 9 percent), and Lviv oblast (12 and 8 percent). The specializations that attracted the largest number of students were (in 1983–4): education (pedagogy) and cultural studies, 15 percent; economics, 13 percent; and machine building and tool building, 12 percent.
In 1984–5 Ukraine had 16 percent of all higher educational institutions and 16.6 percent of the total number of students in the USSR. At the same time Ukraine represented 18.5 percent of the USSR population.
There are two Ukrainian universities outside of Ukraine: the Ukrainian Catholic University (Rome) in Italy (est 1963) and the Ukrainian Free University in Munich. The former, however, does not have the right to confer doctoral degrees. In Canada, the United States of America, Australia, and Europe courses in Ukrainian studies are offered by many universities. A number of Ukrainian research institutes exist as integral parts of national university systems.
Mykola Hlobenko, Bohdan Krawchenko, Bohdan Struminsky
[This part of the article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1988).]
Higher education in independent Ukraine after 1991. At the time that Ukraine declared its state independence in 1991, there were 156 institutions of higher education in the country, primarily universities, institutes, and conservatories. The first law on education in sovereign Ukraine was enacted by the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR in June 1991, still before the Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine was adopted on 24 August 1991. The law and subsequent legal acts introduced a number of crucial changes in higher education, including the classification of all schools based on their educational level and on the type of ownership (public, private, or communal). Four levels of accreditation have been established for institutions of higher learning: 1st (for tekhnikums and vocational schools); 2nd (for colleges); and 3rd and 4th (for institutes, conservatories, academies, and universities). The accreditation was carried out by the Inter-Regional Republican Accreditation Commission (since 2012 Accreditation Commission of Ukraine) headed by the minister of education. The highest, 4th, level of accreditation secured the highest degree of autonomy for a given institution and more funding from the government. In 1994 almost 25 percent of all higher schools were granted the 4th (highest) level of accreditation, including 118 institutes, 14 ‘classical’ universities, and 8 technical universities (former polytechnical institutes). Accreditation and licensing of a school—usually for a limited period of time, between five and eight years—ensured control over the quality of education in any given institution, although that control was exercised unsystematically, especially in the 1990s. As an attempt to unify administration of all levels of education in Ukraine, the Ministry of Education of Ukraine was created in 1992, having replaced two separate ministries: of People’s Education (1988–92) and of Higher Education (1991–2). The national program of the ‘Revival of Education’ (ratified by Ukraine’s cabinet of ministers in 1993) contained the state’s educational policy for the next decade, which included an emphasis on ‘democratization, humanization, and humanitarianization (humanitaryzatsiia)’ of education; development of different levels of higher education; integration of Ukrainian education in the international system of education; and the autonomy of institutions of higher learning.
Ukraine’s educational policy after 1991 also presupposed the introduction of a three-tier system of academic training and corresponding degrees, that of bachelor, specialist, and master. The latter degree could only be attained in the institutions of the 4th level of accreditation (primarily universities). In a clear break with the Soviet past, the new law on education permitted the opening of private higher schools. Among the first private institutions of higher learning to have emerged after 1991 was the National Academy of Management, the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management (both in Kyiv) and the Academy of Finances in Donetsk. Most new universities were established on the basis of the existing institutes that were upgraded to the university status, but many were entirely new institutions. A special case was National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Founded in 1991 by the ordinance of the head of the Supreme Council of Ukraine, it was strikingly different in many respects from the existing state-funded universities in that it was patterned on North American academic models and enjoyed an unprecedented level of autonomy.
What followed was the dramatic increase in the number of higher schools of all types of ownership. Regarding the institutions of the 3rd and 4th levels of accreditation (universities, institutes, and academies), their number grew from 149 in 1990/91 to the all-time high of 353 in 2008/09 but then decreased to 281 in 2019/20. Their geographical distribution remain unequal, as most of them are located in a few regions: the city of Kyiv (65), Kharkiv oblast (32), Dnipropetrovsk oblast (25), Lviv oblast (22), Odesa oblast (20), and Zaporizhia oblast (12). When it comes to the institutions mainly financed from state budget, most of them (53 percent) are located in just five regions: the city of Kyiv, Kharkiv oblast, Dnipropetrovsk oblast, Lviv oblast, and Odesa oblast. These institutions train 60 percent of all state-funded students and consume 67 percent of state funds allocated for higher education. The number of institutions of the 1st and 2nd levels of accreditation (colleges, tekhnikums, and vocational schools) experienced a modest growth in the 1990s: from 742 in 1990/91 to 790 in 1996/97, but thereafter kept decreasing, reaching its lowest point of 338 in 2019/20 (many of them had been incorporated into the institutions of two highest levels of accreditation). In contrast to universities, institutes, and academies, the schools of the 1st and 2nd levels of accreditation are distributed much more evenly geographically. With respect to the type of ownership, despite the proliferation of private education after 1991, most higher schools remain state-funded. For instance, out of 184 universities in 2017, a vast majority—146—were state-funded, followed by 36 private, and 2 communal. The private institutions of all four levels of accreditation experienced a particular notable decline after 2010: from 176 in 2010/11 to 115 in 2019/20. Out of the total number of universities, institutes, and academies (281 in 2019/20), the private schools comprised 78 or 27.7 percent, a decline from 99 (or 30 percent) at the beginning of the decade. Similarly, the share of students in private institutions fell from its maximum of 16 percent in 2006/07 to 8 percent in 2017/18. This was in part due to the low quality of education in some of these private institutions, which resulted in the loss of license from the ministry of education. The decline in private education could also be explained by the fact that private schools failed to find extra funding to attract students who were unable to pay tuition. Meanwhile, the state schools could tap into government funds to provide tuition-free training and scholarships to students of all economic backgrounds. Another notable trend after 1991 has been the dramatic decrease in the number of specialized institutes (pedagogical institutes, polytechnical institutes, economic institutes, medical institutes, physical education institutes, etc.), as dozens of them were reorganized into universities. There were three main reasons for this wholesale reorganization: a need for more comprehensive curriculum; a considerable symbolic value and prestige attached to the name ‘university’; and better funding and more autonomy enjoyed by universities. As a result, the number of institutes decreased from 136 in the late 1980s to 72 in 1995 to 59 in 2017.
Since the early 1990s a number of leading universities and academies have been granted the national institution of higher learning status. This is the highest and most prestigious status that an institutions of higher learning of the 4th level of accreditation can receive; it is granted by a decree of the president of Ukraine. The first higher schools that were granted the ‘national university’ status in 1994 were Kyiv University (today Kyiv National University), Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (today the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy), and Ukrainian State Agrarian University (today National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine). As of 2019 there were 118 ‘national’ institutions (primarily universities and academies), including those evacuated from the Russian-occupied Crimea and the occupied parts of Donetsk oblast and Luhansk oblast. By far the largest number of such institutions can be found in the traditional centers of higher learning in Soviet and post-Soviet Ukraine, that is Kyiv oblast (35), Kharkiv oblast (18), Odesa oblast (10), and Lviv oblast (8). The largest groups of national universities include ‘classical’ (24), technical (17), those subordinated to law enforcement agencies (11), arts (10), agricultural (10), medical (9), and transportation (8). The highest number of ‘national statuses’ (79 for universities and several more for academies) was granted by President Leonid Kuchma between 1994 and 2004. Such a practice could be partially explained by the system of political patronage whereby the ‘national status’ was granted in exchange for an electoral support of the president of Ukraine and his chosen political party in cities and regions where such institutions were located. Benefitting from more substantial financial and material resources, national universities continue to dominate academic rankings in Ukraine. Of the ten top higher schools in the country in 2020, according to the independent academic ranking Top 200 Ukraine, nine had the national institution of higher learning status.
Another noticeable trend after 1991 has been a growing presence of the Ukrainian language in higher education. The ‘Law on Languages in the Ukrainian SSR’ ratified by the government of the Ukrainian SSR in 1989 (and valid de-jure until 2019), proclaimed the Ukrainian language the state language of the republic and made specific provisions for the growth of the Ukrainian-language instruction in higher education. The legacy of Russification was overwhelming. For instance, in 1990, the staggering 95 percent of teaching at institutions of higher learning was conducted in Russian (only 7.8 percent of students studied in Ukrainian). As a way to change that situation, the chairs of the Ukrainian philology were introduced in all faculties. Already in 1996 94 percent of secondary-school graduates took the university entrance exams in the Ukrainian language. More than half of all academic groups (73 percent) across Ukraine were learning in Ukrainian. However, the regional distribution of student groups instructed in Ukrainian was highly uneven. Ukrainization was near complete in western and central Ukraine at that time, but it proceeded at a much slower pace in the south and east of the country where the share of student groups learning in Ukrainian remained below 50 percent: 40.56 percent in Kherson oblast; 39.3 percent in Odesa oblast; 36 percent in Dnipropetrovsk oblast; 33 percent in Mykolaiv oblast; 21.64 percent in Kharkiv oblast; 17.6 percent in Zaporizhia oblast; 11.21 percent in Donetsk oblast; and 6.23 percent in Luhansk oblast. The figures for Ukrainian-language instructions were still lower in reality because many higher schools that were officially listed as the Ukrainian-language institutions had only a minority of their faculty teaching in Ukrainian. Even in the very end of the 1990s, only 69 percent of all universities, academies, and institutes used Ukrainian as the main language of instruction, and about 61 percent of all students were taught in Ukrainian (100 percent in Ternopil oblast and Kyiv oblast, 96.7 percent in the city of Kyiv, but 60 percent in Odesa oblast and merely 30.5 percent in Luhansk oblast). The pace of linguistic conversion accelerated in the 2000s, as the number of students taught in Russian dropped from 395,605 in 1999/2000 to 280,767 in 2008/09, the latter figure amounting to 11.5 percent of all students enrolled in the institutions of the 3rd and 4th levels of accreditation. Finally, the new language law enacted in 2019 made it compulsory for higher schools to offer instruction exclusively in Ukrainian (with some exceptions reserved for foreign students who can take particular courses in languages other than Ukrainian).
As for student enrollments, they have depended on general demographic trends in independent Ukraine. The number of students in all schools of the 3rd and 4th levels of accreditation, which included universities, institutes, conservatories, and academies, declined from 881,300 on the eve of Ukraine’s independence in 1990/91 to 829,200 in 1993/94. That number, however, had been growing steadily over the next decade, reaching its peak of 2,372,500 in 2007/8, but since then it has plummeted to 1,266,100 in 2019/20. The private institutions in particular felt the decrease in enrollments (4 times between 2007 and 2018). This dramatic fall reflects in part Ukraine’s notoriously low birth rates in the 1990s and in part an ongoing emigration of young people to study and work abroad. Even a steeper decrease affected the number of students in the institutions of the 1st and 2nd levels of accreditation (colleges, tekhnikums, and vocational schools): from 757,000 in 1990/91 to 173,600 in 2019/20, which reflected a continuously falling demand for specialized, particularly technical education in independent Ukraine and the fact that a number of colleges and tekhnikums were integrated into other schools (above all universities and institutes). As the absolute number of students in the schools of the 3rd and 4th levels of accreditation grew, so did the number of students per 10,000 population: from 170 in 1991 to 285 in 2001 (the number that was, however, still lower than that in neighboring countries). That number reached its highest point—511,6—in 2007/08, but thereafter it declined precipitously: to 335 in 2014/15 and 302 in 2019/20. Nonetheless, the share of secondary school graduates who became students of higher educational institutions remained high in Ukraine: 70 percent on the average after 2006. In the late 1990s, the city of Kyiv had by far the highest number of students per 10,000 population (748.5), while Transcarpathia oblast had the lowest (89). If the institutions of all four levels of accreditation are taken into consideration, then the number of students per 10,000 population would be as follows: 393 in 2014/15, 361 in 2018/19, and 343 in 2019/20. By region, in 2019 Kyiv still had the highest number of students per 10,000 people (1,231), followed by Kharkiv oblast (639), Lviv oblast (478), Odesa oblast (442), Zaporizhia oblast (406), and Dnipropetrovsk oblast (348). As of 2020, more than half of all students (56.8 percent) were self-funded (their tuition paid by individuals or legal entities), while the rest were state-funded. Female students comprised 51.4 percent of all students, which was a slight decrease from 54 percent in 1983–4. As for international students, their number grew from 53,664 in 2011 to 75,605 in 2019, or 6 percent of all students; the majority of them hailed from India, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Turkmenistan, Nigeria, Egypt, and Turkey. Around half of all foreign students study medicine and related fields. In contrast to Soviet times and the first post-Soviet decade, when a majority of Ukrainian students studied technology, the humanities, and natural sciences, after 2010 the most popular fields of study have been social sciences, business, and law. For instance, in 2018 the single largest group of students studied social sciences (299,263, compared to 102,800 in 1989), followed by engineering (245,232, compared to 309,435 in 1989) and economics, business, and administration (217,417, compared to 100,807 in 1989). As of 2019, however, the state began to encourage the aspiring students to study biomedical engineering, biotechnology, bioengineering, statistics, transportation, and material science by expanding the number of government-funded places (the so-called derzhavne zamovlennia) in these fields. While the number of students in independent Ukraine fluctuated, the percentage of people aged 15 and older that completed higher education grew continuously: from 12 percent in 1990 to 20 percent in 2000 to 24 percent in 2010.
Despite a number of qualitative and quantitative changes after 1991, Ukraine’s higher education has suffered from many ills, especially during the transitional period of the 1990s. Chief among them were dramatic funding cuts to higher education and science, which particularly badly affected scientific research and material resources in state-funded schools. Furthermore, the research and development expenditure (as percent of the GDP) in Ukraine fell considerably during that period: from 0.82 percent in 1992 to 0.31 percent in 1998. Higher education was affected especially badly in this regard. Most of the funding was distributed without transparency, often based on cronyism and corruption. As a way to compensate for the scarcity of state funding, higher schools turned to private sources and international research grants. As a result, between 30 and 40 percent of scientific research funding in higher educational institutions came from non-governmental sources (at Lviv Polytechnic, for instance, the allocations from state budget amounted to only one-third of funds). But when in 1998 the government introduced a value-added tax (VAT) on research projects commissioned by private enterprises, it became much more difficult for higher schools to obtain extra funds.
With the worsening economic situation in the country in the early 1990s, coupled with the underfunding of higher education and the opening of opportunities elsewhere, a large number of faculty members left academia for good. Many found employment in the emerging service sector and bourgeoning commerce; others went abroad, invited by academic and scientific institutions. According to the official data (likely underreported), between 1997 and 2003 alone around 1,500 academics with highest academic degrees (of candidate and doctor of sciences) left Ukraine. The overall number of academic staff in higher education decreased by 2.5 times in the 1990s. In 1993 alone higher education lost 10 percent of its academic staff, most of them under 50 years old. The total number of scientists and scholars in the country employed in higher education and scientific research institutes of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine fell from 449,800 in 1991 to 199,400 in 1999 or by 66 percent. The average age of the remaining professors during most of the post-1991 period was 58-60, higher than it had been in the late Soviet times. While more than half of all scientists and scholars worked in higher education, scientific research conducted in higher schools never received an adequate funding and organizational support from the state, especially in the face of an ever increasing teaching workload (up to 1000 hours per year compared to the average of 200–300 hours in most of Europe). The situation was especially critical in state-funded schools. The outflow of academics also negatively affected the ratio of students to faculty members. If in 1998/99 there were 183 students per professor and 43 students per docent, already next year those figures were 209 and 49 respectively. An opposite tendency occurred after 2010: while the number of students decreased dramatically, that of faculty members was reduced at a much slower pace. As a result, Ukraine with 10.4 students per one instructor (from an assistant to a professor) as of 2018/19 was among the countries with the lowest student-teacher ratio (for most of Europe the typical figure is 12–20 students per instructor). Such a low ratio is certainly beneficial for students, but it has dire financial consequences for higher schools. Since the funding from the state in Ukraine has been tied to the number of students, a low student-teacher ratio results in the reduction of funding for a particular school, a situation in which a bulk of school’s budget (60 to 80 percent) goes towards faculty salaries at the expense of the school’s material upkeep and research needs. A welcome change is expected to happen with the 2020 financial reform of higher education which breaks the dependence of state funding on the number of students enrolled in a given school; the tuition fees for self-funded students will be brought into the line with the cost of training of state-funded students.
Several major reforms and policy changes were implemented in higher education after 2000, and especially in the wake of the Orange Revolution of 2004–5; they addressed some of the challenges of demographic, economic, and administrative nature. A series of novelties were introduced already in 2000. High-school graduates were permitted to apply for several higher schools simultaneously, with the priority in admission given to national institutions of higher learning, followed by universities and institutes of other statuses. Several schools (among them National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and Kyiv Polytechnical Institute National Technical University of Ukraine) were allowed to conduct their own admission tests. A system of government long-term credit for self-funded students was also introduced (albeit on a limited scale, as only 4,200 students received loans from the state by 2003). Finally, the limit on the number of self-funded students in each school was lifted, and thereafter such students comprised more than half of all students in Ukraine’s institutions of higher learning (this also increased the number of students per 10,000 population from 240 in 1999 to 259 in 2000). These and other norms and practices were incorporated into the new Law on Higher Education in 2002.
More far-reaching changes happened in 2005. In May of that year Ukraine joined the so-called Bologna Process, a series of interstate agreements that ensured comparability in the standards and quality of higher-education qualifications across Europe. Its ultimate goal was to create the ‘European Higher Education Area.’ As a signatory to the agreements, Ukraine promised to adjust its system of higher education to European standards, particularly harmonize its academic degrees, the system of evaluation, and course certification with those in other European countries through the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). As a central tool in the Bologna Process, ECTS aims to make national education systems more comparable internationally. By making studies and courses more transparent, it allows students to move between countries and have their academic qualifications and study periods abroad recognized. Although initially the adoption of ECTS by Ukrainian higher schools was rather nominal, it did considerably enhance academic mobility of both faculty and students by allowing exchange visitors from Ukraine to study and do research at leading European institutions of higher learning. Another important aspect of the new system was that it increased academic freedoms in Ukraine: for faculty members to develop innovative courses, for students to choose courses and ways of learning. In the spirit of the Bologna Process, Ukraine had also to tackle the critical issue of a widespread corruption in higher education, particularly in the very process of applying for admission to the institutions of higher learning. Arguably, the single most successful educational reform in independent Ukraine, the state-wide External Independent Evaluation (ZNO) was introduced in 2008 for all secondary school graduates willing to pursue higher education. Effectively, it replaced the entrance examinations conducted by individual higher schools. As of 2021, secondary school graduates can take a test in following disciplines: the Ukrainian language and literature, history of Ukraine, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, geography, and foreign language (English, German, French, and Spanish). While the participants can choose up to five disciplines depending on their intended majors, two disciplines—the Ukrainian language and mathematics—are mandatory for all aspiring students. Administered by the Ukrainian Center for Educational Quality Assessment, a governmental body created in 2006, the ZNO has considerably reduced corruption in the admission process.
Following the Euromaidan Revolution of 2013–4, more changes in higher education were implemented by a succession of reform-minded governments. The Law on Higher Education in 2014, augmented by the Law on Education in 2017, became the most important document regulating Ukraine’s higher education after the early 1990s. The law abolished four levels of accreditation for institutions of higher learning and instead introduced four types of higher schools: universities (‘universal’ and specialized institutions); institutes and academies (specialized or professional schools); and colleges (for training junior bachelors and bachelors). Reflecting the norms of the Bologna system, five academic degrees were established: junior bachelor; bachelor; master; doctor of philosophy/arts; and doctor of sciences. The degree of specialist was to be abolished, followed, controversially, by that of candidate of sciences in 2020 (an exception was made for those graduate students who had entered their programs before 2016). The admission to schools became possible exclusively based on the results of the External Independent Evaluation (ZNO). Schools’ autonomy was strengthened in financial and educational matters. Another key element of the Bologna system, the academic mobility, was to be maintained through the ‘credit-module’ system of learning and evaluation (whereby students could obtain credits for individual educational modules). Ensured by the Bologna system, academic mobility has so far allowed 4,000 students and faculty members annually to participate in international exchange programs. The law also included safeguards against plagiarism and measures ensuring transparency in educational practices. The annual teaching workload was to be decreased from 900 to 600 hours. The quality of education in individual schools, the accreditation of new majors, and overall standards of higher education were to be controlled by a special independent organ, the National Agency for Higher Education Quality Assurance (NAQA), that consisted of elected members representing institutions of higher learning (state, private, and communal), specialized academies of sciences, the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, and student groups. Finally, a competition in higher education was encouraged, whereby the more popular the school (based on the number of applicants with the highest score in the ZNO), the more funds it would receive from the government. In the same vein, since 2019 the government has pursued the policy of merging higher schools and encouraged mergers financially: larger schools are promised more funds. Another reform in 2015 concerned the number of professions that could be acquired in the institutions of higher learning: that number was shortened to 125 (from around 600 between 2010 and 2015), and the professions themselves were aligned with those listed in the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED).
At the same time, higher education in Ukraine continue to face significant challenges. Some of them stem from the Soviet-era mentality of many university administrators; others from the chronic underfunding of higher education and the incompatibility of teaching and research due to an excessive workload of most faculty members (18 academic hours per week on the average); still others from the hastily implemented reforms that only increased the power of governmental and university administrators over the faculty and created the highly convoluted academic procedures (among them an excessive role ascribed to scientometrics in the academic advancement of faculty members). The implementation of some of the norms related to the Bologna Process has proven challenging to many professors and students alike, particularly the ‘credit-module’ system of learning and evaluation. The underfunding of science and higher education indeed remains a critical issue. Although the research and development expenditure (in terms of the percentage of the GDP) in Ukraine, after a steep fall in the 1990s (from 0.82 percent in 1992 to 0.31 percent in 1998), rose to 0.34 percent in 2000 and then to 0.76 percent in 2013, and then it fell again, to 0.47 percent in 2018. While the expenditure on higher education has been much more substantial percentagewise (1.53 percent in 2016), higher than in France (1.23 percent) or Germany (1.25 percent), its actual amount in US dollars remains minuscule: 1.42 billion USD in 2016, compared to 5 billion USD in Poland, 10.3 billion USD in the Russian Federation, and 30.2 billion USD in France. Educational experts also point out that there are too many institutions of higher learning in Ukraine, or 16 per million population (compared to 4 or 6 higher schools per million people in Germany, France, and Great Britain). There is also a chasm growing between a handful of leading universities in the country and all the rest. Additionally, such a large number of educational institutions creates a huge burden for the state budget. Ukraine’s academic job market is plagued by lack of transparent job searches, a minimal geographic mobility, and low salaries. All these factors further confound the hopes of academics and students in Ukraine for a European-quality education. Students themselves consistently evaluate the quality of higher education in Ukraine as below average, particularly those studying the humanities and social sciences. Among the most frequent student complaints has been a continuous corruption of the faculty members and the inability of education to meet market demands. As a consequence, more and more young people choose to study abroad, thus causing a significant brain drain in Ukraine’s system of higher education, a trend that has accelerated after 2015, against the background of the Russian threat.
[This part of the article was written in 2022.]
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