More than lip-service?

Ukraine officially committed itself to the Bologna Process at the Bergen conference, which was held in 2005 and dedicated to expanding the process. While this can be seen as an aspect of Ukraine's planned Europeanization, it is important to keep in mind that the process was initiated within the framework of the Council of Europe, together with members of the European UNESCO region, and is thus not directly related to EU integration. Nevertheless, the European Commission is an important actor contributing to the process, notably through the Erasmus and Life-long Learning Programs.

One of the most important challenges linked to the Bologna Process – indeed its raison d' tre – is to bring the structures of higher education in line with established European standards. This criterion has been party fulfilled, with Level III and IV institutions such as universities, academies and institutes embracing the two-cycle system. The European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) was implemented at Level III and IV HEIs during the 2006/2007 academic year. This year has been set as the deadline for the implementation of the National Qualifications Framework, and institutions of Quality Assurance are operating, at the internal, external, state, and regional levels.

While it may seem that the Bologna Process is being successfully implemented, there are plenty of inconsistencies. Many HEIs continue to run parallel curricula or ones that are incongruous with European standards, considerably reducing the transferability of credits. Quality assurance often does not conform to European norms, either. Doctoral studies have yet to be reformed. Moreover, staff mobility is still strongly limited, largely by the right of a rector to prohibit teachers from holding more than one position and the lack of inter-university bilateral agreements on staff exchange and joint professional development programs.

A commonly overlooked element of the Bologna Process is the question of student participation. This is extremely important, as students constitute the main group with an interest in improving the level of educational services provided. Thus, in a system dominated by inertia, student groups can provide the kick-start to reform. However, the independence and scope of these bodies remains constrained in Ukraine – and not just here. For example, rectors continue to nominate student representatives, student representatives are constricted to low-profile advisory activities, and financial barriers significantly limit the scope of their work. A further problem is that, due to the young age and lack of financial independence of students, it is in fact their parents that ought to be involved in matters of quality assurance – generating a whole new set of complications.