Changes to the Law on Higher Education
The current law on higher education is bound to reform Ukrainian education system bringing drastic changes. There are heated debates over the new law, which discards the Candidate of Sciences degree, Specialist’s degree (a less academically rigorous alternative to Master’s degree) and levels of accreditation. Let us have a look at the key aspects of the new law.
A lot of former responsibilities and functions of the Ministry of Education will pass on to the State Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, which will consist of 25 members elected for 3 years. They will represent universities, academies of sciences, employers and students. The Agency will be responsible for several things: quality control of education, accreditation and licensing of academic programmes and boards of academics, as well as putting together the list of courses and academic programmes. Thus, the Agency takes over as the main regulatory body in the country’s higher education.
Changes to academic degrees. From now on academic degrees will include Associate degree, Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Science. Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and Doctor of Philosophy are the academic degrees offered in the majority of developed countries all around the world. Upon graduation from the higher education institution, a student is granted a Master’s degree instead of Specialist’s degree. Upon the completion of a graduate school and writing a thesis, students will obtain the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) instead of the Candidate of Sciences degree.
Students will still be able to obtain the degree of the Junior Specialist but only in vocational schools. As distinct from Associate degree, applicants for The Junior Specialist degree require neither complete secondary education nor ZNO.
Other academic titles include Senior Researcher, Associate Professor and Professor.
Focus on the fight against plagiarism. Thesis are to be published on university websites. The oral thesis defense should be open to the public so that everyone can witness the validity of the scientific process and take a video or record the defense. If an author of thesis is found guilty of plagiarising after they have been granted an academic degree, they face severe sanctions. Authors lose their academic degree and members of the board, who approved the thesis, are banned from similar activity for 2 years.
Higher education institutions will become more independent. Levels of accreditation have been discarded. From now on all higher education institutions are divided into 3 groups: university (multidisciplinary institutions that can be either state or research), institute or academy (field-oriented) and college (offers Bachelor’s degree, can be a division of 2 previous types of institutions).
Higher education institutions can decide on teaching methods, create academic programmes, offer commercial services, introduce majors, hold bank accounts and create their personal database of tangible objects and divisions.
Higher education institutions have the right to grant academic degrees and decide on the validity of diplomas obtained in other countries. Diplomas in the state-approved format should follow the programme accredited by the State Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. If a higher education institution follows a non-accredited programme, it has the right to issue diplomas in their suggested format.
Heads of education institutions will be elected for 5 years by the secret ballot. Voters should include not only academic staff but also at least 15% of students. A head cannot stand for the position more than for two terms.
Heads of education institutions should openly provide information about their academic and financial activities, progress reports, information about property, etc.
Students will take an active part in the academic and social life of higher education institutions. Students can initiate actions protesting against issues with the study process, student life, bursaries, student accommodation and student dinning. In no circumstances should student receive a minimum bursary less than the minimum wage.
Reduce the load of students and teachers. Academic programmes will consist of a fewer number of subjects. Apart from this, students will be able to choose 25% of their subjects. Students can apply for Master’s degree in any programme regardless their Bachelor’s degree.
The number of teaching hours per teacher should not exceed 600 hours per year compared to the former standard of 900 hours.
In 2016 the Agency is going to launch a computer system of government order. Students who take ZNO tests should decide on education institutions they would like to apply to in order of priority. Then, students’ results, average school score and other indicators that can influence admission process will be put together by a computer system. Applicants will be automatically allocated to education institutions based on their overall score. Applicants with the highest score will get a state-funded education. After their admission, education institutions will receive a government order on their education.
The official language of instruction in all higher education institutions is Ukrainian. If an education institution invites foreign teachers or educated foreign students, it has the right to teach certain subjects in English or other foreign languages. However, an education institution should provide courses of the Ukrainian language to such students. Optionally, education institutions can provide courses of minority languages.
All applicants to Ukrainian higher education institutions should take ZNO. ZNO tests have become mandatory for a higher education institution application. Even if students apply for the 2nd or 3rd year after completing a vocational school, they will still have to take ZNO test.
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