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There is a growing corruption scandal in Ukraine’s medical education sector. This scandal has already touched the country’s two premiere medical universities—Bogomolets National Medical University in Kyiv and Odessa National Medical University. These universities are among the most popular for international students.

Kateryna Amosova, rector of Bogomolets National Medical University, was dismissed on allegations of corruption, although she is still listed as the rector on the university’s website. Rector Amosova is fighting her dismissal in court. 

Valery Zaporozhan, rector of Odessa National Medical University, faced an investigation related to corruption, but the court rejected the case. A few months later, on July 17, Rector Zaporozhan was fired by the Minister. Zaporozhan is likely to fight his dismissal in court as well.

Most recently, the Ministry of Health warned rectors of medical universities about scams, fraud and extortion by unidentified criminals claiming to be contacting them on behalf of the Minister, Ul’yana Suprun, and her deputy, Pavlo Kovtonyuk. Rectors complained that they received multiple phone calls demanding money in exchange for their jobs. The Ministry alleges that the sole purpose of these calls is to discredit its image. Medical colleges and universities in Ukraine are governed by the Ministry of Health, although the Ministry of Education and Science also has leverage over medical higher education institutions. This governance structure is a remnant of Stalinist Soviet educational system.

Nepotism and unexplained wealth

Hypocrisy, nepotism, bribery and extortion are the rules of the game in Ukraine’s medical education. Kateryna Amosova, is by all measures a wealthy person. She owns two apartments and a large house in Kyiv, two parcels of land near Kyiv, and three cars—BMW X1, BMW X3, and BMW X5. She has declared income of UAH 3,232,827, or over US$120,000 for 2017. Not bad for a country where physicians work for a meager US$200 a month. Most of the income comes not from the salary but from “entrepreneurial activities”. Rector Amosova has so much free time that she owns several pharmacological and clinical research companies, including three registered in the UK and one in France. 

Rector Amosova’s farther, Mykola Amosov, was a famous Soviet heart surgeon and academician, perhaps one of the most famous Ukrainian academics of all times. Her husband, Volodymyr Mishalov, chairs the department of general surgery in the university that she leads. Their daughter, Anna Mishalova, graduated from Bohomolets National Medical University and works in her father’s surgery department.

Valery Zaporozhan has led Odessa National Medical University since 1994 and has also accumulated considerable wealth. His income declaration for 2017 states a salary of UAH 339,491 (approximately $12,500), pension of UAH 100,589 (approximately $3,700), and income from real estate sold of UAH 365,000 (approximately $13,500). The family owns two large apartments in Odessa, totaling 8,000 square feet, and 6,000 square feet house in Kyiv. Zaporozhan also has almost USD one million in cash in bank. He and his wife drive two new Toyota Camrys.

Corruption and International Enrollment

The corruption scandal was triggered by the suicide of Muqaddas Nasyrlaeva, an international medical student from Turkmenistan. Muqaddas came to Ukraine to study dentistry at Bogomolets National Medical University in Kyiv. She was a first-year student when she committed suicide, apparently due to bureaucratic problems related to her expired student visa. She jumped from the Paton Bridge into the Dnieper River. People familiar with the situation allege that there was extortion in exchange for visa documents, widespread in departments that work with international students. The dean of the Department of International Student services, Volodymyr Sulik, teaches at the department, chaired by Amosova’s husband. Another person implicated in Muqaddas’s suicide is Tetiana Timokhina, responsible for the dentistry faculty, who had refused to produce documents necessary for Muqaddas’s residency permit.

Ukraine hosts a significant number of international students. Turkmenistan sends Ukraine 4,500 students. In 2012, this number was closer to twelve thousand.The explanation for the popularity of Ukraine as a destination was simple—Ukraine receives natural gas from this Central Asian regime and in exchange, it hosts its students, funded privately or by their government. Turkmenistan weakened its higher education system, reducing HEIs to two-year community colleges, with places for only seven percent of secondary school graduates. 

Turkmenistan has reinstated five-year programs to improve its education. Nevertheless, Turkmenistan has no choice but to continue to send students to a low cost, largely Russian-speaking country. These factors along with lax educational standards and a long record of human rights violations and corruption comparable to Turkmenistan’s own, make Ukraine a perfect destination. Other than Turkmenistan, most international students come to Ukraine from poor developing or former communist regimes, such as India, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Nigeria, Georgia, Turkey, Egypt, Uzbekistan, and Jordan.

The Ukrainian State Center for International Education functions under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine. According to the data presented by the Center, Ukraine claims total of 66 thousand international students from 147 countries. The five universities that enroll the largest number of international students are medical universities. Kharkiv National Medical University hosts most of the international students—over five thousand.Bohomolets National Medical University in Kyiv and Odessa National Medical University educate 2,307 and 3,543 international students, respectively. The statistics on international student intake are problematic, but it would be fair to say that at least one third of all international students in the country study medicine.

There are also serious concerns regarding the quality of medical graduates. Saudi Arabia no longer recognizes Ukrainian medical diplomas of its graduates. In 2017, the Ambassador of Kuwait met with the Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine and stated that recognition of academic degrees will be done on the basis of each particular university rather than automatically based on the receipt of Ukraine’s degrees. These oil-rich countries can afford better educated physicians and high-quality medical services. Yet, other nations, such as India, Nigeria, Egypt, and Uzbekistan, continue to send their students to Ukraine.


Ararat L Osipian is a fellow of the Institute of International Education, United Nations Plaza, New York, and honorary associate at the Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and holds a PhD in Education and Human Development from Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt University, where he came as a fellow of the US Department of State.

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