Establishment of research universities in Ukrainian higher education

Author: Myroslava Hladchenko

The idea of the research university as a key institution for social and economic development within a knowledge intensive society is a “global phenomenon” – and its establishment has been adopted as a matter of policy by the Ukrainian government in 2007 (Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, 2007). The system of higher education in Ukraine has inherited many features from the Soviet model, for example, the division between teaching-oriented higher education institutions and research institutes of the Academy of Sciences. The establishment of research universities was the effort of the government to exclude certain universities from the general number of teaching-focused institutions that did not contribute much to Ukraine becoming a ‘knowledge society’. According to Knowledge Economy Index (KEI), in 2008, Ukraine ranked 51st in the world (World Bank 2008) and in 2012 slipped to 56th (World Bank 2012), which proves that the Ukrainian economy is far from being a knowledge economy. The KEI indicates whether the environment is conductive for knowledge to be used effectively in economic development.

The primary mission of a research university is to generate research and produce graduate students. To achieve their mission research universities must be provided with abundant resources in order to provide the necessary infrastructure and intellectual environment required (Mohrman, 2008; Altbach, 2013).

The idea of a research university first emerged in the official discourse of Ukrainian higher education in 2007, within the ‘State Scientific-Technical and Social programme ‘Science in Universities’ for 2008-2017’(Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, 2007). The aim of the programme was ‘the increase of the research, improvement of its nexus with education and creation of the universities of research type’ (Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, 2007). The government planned to establish five research universities but in fact in 2007-2010 fourteen research universities were established (Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, 2010). The government implied on the research universities beside traditional teaching activities also research at national and international levels and knowledge transfer. After all the statuses of research university were awarded, in 2010 the government declared its expectations which were formulated on the basis of quantitative criteria, according to which the universities were obliged to prove their status in five years. The quantitative criteria are:the establishment of a science park, the number of the defended PhD theses, monographs, academics with scientific degree, number of foreign students, number of scientific boards at the universities at which PhD theses can be defended and finally the number of study visits of academics and students. Besides, the government expected that in five years the universities would start earning third party funding (Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine 2010). The government promised additional funding to the research universities for infrastructure, salaries for academics and international study visits of academics and students.

However, due to economic problems in the country, the universities did not receive these promised additional funds. The government has not created beneficial conditions for knowledge transfer within the Ukrainian economy, which overall is far from being a knowledge-based economy. Also the government has not provided universities with necessary financial resources, which is a required condition for the creation of a beneficial intellectual environment within research university. In 2014, when the period of five years was over (as we remember the status was given for five years), a new version of the Law on Higher Education was adopted which declared that new criteria were to be developed for research universities and in this way research universities `2.0` can be more successful. However, there need to be changes in the economy of Ukraine, if the government really decides to build the knowledge-based economy and provides universities with the necessary resources. Becoming a research university is not just about the change of status, it is a complex issue which requires significant changes on the state level and also within universities themselves.


Altbach, P. 2013. Advancing the national and global knowledge economy: the role of research universities in developing countries. Studies in Higher Education, 38: 316-331.

Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. 2007. State Scientific-Technical and Social Program “Science in Universities” for 2008-2017

Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. 2010. On Approval of the Regulations on Research University.

Mohrman, K., Ma, W. & Baker, D. 2008. The Research university in Transition: The Emerging global Model. Higher Education Policy, 21(1): 5-27.

World Bank (2008) Accessed 25 April 2015

World Bank (2012) Accessed 25 April 2015


About Myroslava Hladchenko

Myroslava Hladchenko Myroslava Hladchenko, Candidate of Sciences in Education (2008), associate professor (docent) at the Faculty of Education and Humanities National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine. Myroslava participated as a visiting scholar in MARIHE program (2013) and had visits as an invited researcher to the International Centre for Higher Education Research-Kassel, University Kassel (2015) and Observatory of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lausanne (2015).

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