• The World View

    A blog from the Center for International Higher Education


Institutionalized Separation of Research and Teaching in Ukraine

In Ukraine research and education are institutionally separated — separated during the Soviet era, and remaining separate for the twenty-five years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

March 7, 2016

In Ukraine, research and education are institutionally separated. This separation, inherited from the Soviet era, results in universities scoffing at research and research institutes unmotivated to cooperate with universities.

According to all reputable world university rankings, most top universities are from the US, where research, teaching and service are the three integral pillars of success. In these league tables, Ukraine’s universities are nowhere to be found, not a surprise, since they are distinguished by low-quality teaching, even lower quality research, - and no notion of service whatsoever. University leaders, many of whom are former Soviet bureaucrats and members of the Communist Party, are not familiar with the Humboldtian university model. Most universities conduct no research at all, and those that do rely on outdated methodologies and equipment. Unlike the best universities, in Ukraine research and education are institutionally separated— separated during the Soviet era, and remaining separate for the twenty-five years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Enduring Soviet bureaucracy combined with institutional rigidity cemented by endemic corruption, make it impossible to plan change, let alone to implement it.

Teaching is done in universities; research is the function of numerous research institutes, most under the umbrella of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. Over ninety percent of all state research funds are allocated to research institutes. Officially, universities are required to conduct research and publish, but in reality, there are no incentives or consequences for engaging in research, or not. The “publish or perish” formula, common to the Western world has not reached Ukraine. Many faculty members with doctoral degrees do not know what constitutes scholarly work or how to conduct research. Nor are they familiar with the traditions of a scholarly community. Plagiarism is rife. Doctoral degrees are for sale and thus promotions have their price tag not in terms of scholarly productivity, but in cash—preferably hard currency. While in the US, publications are the currency of the academy, in Ukraine the primary currency is the US dollar.

Ukraine’s state officials claim reforms are underway, but experience points to the opposite. The country has been unable to detach itself from its Soviet legacy. As a result, the scholarly community has failed to develop the social sciences. The Soviet Union was traditionally strong in math and sciences, but social sciences were restricted to Marxist dogmas. There are no Economics, Political Science, Sociology, Philosophy, Anthropology or Managerial Studies in any internationally-recognizable form. Nor are there business schools. In fact, many scholars still do not know the difference between Business and Economics.

The Ministry of Education and Science requires faculty members to publish so universities create venues to meet these requirements. Most publish their own collections of working papers, effectively self-publishing. One faculty member cited the requirement to publish in international journals and was informed a publisher with a nice collection of abstracts in Saint Petersburg that charges only $30 per publication— at that time equal to her weekly salary. A few days later, she made the same announcement at the departmental meeting. By international journals any publications outside Ukraine, primarily in Russia, and Moldova, is acceptable. Some charge per page, others per word. Needless to say, these publications have no value in the international scholarly community. The practice effectively mocks research instead of developing capacity to conduct real research. There is not a single, locally-educated scholar in the country who publishes regularly in western peer-reviewed journals. The Dean insists that instead of encouraging students to write term papers faculty should involve them in research. It is hard to understand how one can involve undergraduates into any meaningful research activities if many faculty members with doctoral degrees do not know what research is or how it is done.

There has been no serious move to replace the existing system of the institutional separation of research and teaching. All conversations about the future fusion of science and education are just that, conversations. Laws are being introduced under the new pro-European political regime, but one shouldn’t be too optimistic about their impact on the current state of affairs. The newly introduced law on research requires Ukraine’s research institutes to cooperate with universities. Ukraine is one of those countries where laws are printed on fine paper and stay on paper—they are rarely enacted and only selectively enforced. Ukraine has no research universities, let alone world-class research universities. Sadly, the Academy has shown no indication of being willing to collaborate with the Ministry of Education and Sciences or individual universities.


Ararat L. Osipian holds a Ph.D. in Education and Human Development from Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt University. Presently, he conducts fieldwork on corruption, hybrid war, and the failed state in Ukraine. His research interests include corruption, corporate raiding, and comparative education.



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