University Values: a bulletin on international academic freedom, autonomy & responsibility



--New Zealand Spies Threaten Academic Freedom. By Tom Ryan
Quality of Education in Branch Campuses in Asia. By Terence Gomez
Clash of Values between Turkish Government & University Professors. By Carol Corillon
-Academic Freedom in Africa:  Linking the Past to the Present and Future.  By Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua and James Lebbie (Part I of III)
--There will be no Human Rights unless Humans Write.  By Bozorgmehr Shakib
--Ukraine and the Bologna process: Tricks and Moves.  By Georgiy Kasianov

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New Zealand spies threaten academic freedom
By Tom Ryan PhD
National President
Tertiary Education Union, Te Hautū Kahurangi o Aotearoa
New Zealand

In peaceful little places like New Zealand discussions about academic freedom can sometimes seem a bit, well, academic. They often focus either on moral censorship issues, such as what an academic can write about the Holocaust, or on the conflict between the increasing corporatization of universities and the ability of their staff to remain a critical conscience of society.

But this year the academic freedom debate here in New Zealand is being told in a more dramatic Hollywood style, with real secret spies.  Last year the government’s spy agency, the Security Intelligence Service (SIS), decided it would allow individuals to apply to see if the service kept files on them, and if so to view their file. So far most of the information that the SIS has released has been innocuous, notable mainly for the fact that it has invested so much time and energy into spying on leftish politicians and left-wing activists rather than on real terrorists.

Then last month we found out that University of Auckland law professor Jane Kelsey also has been spied on. And that the SIS is refusing to disclose to Dr Kelsey what documents it holds in her file.  Dr Kelsey, a well known dissenting voice in New Zealand, particularly in relation to neo-liberal economic and trade agendas, is understandably irate:

"My experience since applying for my SIS file last November reveals two things: there is still no accountability for SIS actions in gathering intelligence on lawful dissent; and the SIS is apparently targeting academic critics of failed free market policies at a time when debate is needed most."

The SIS won’t say why it has been spying on Dr Kelsey, or how. But, looking at the type of information that it has released to others who have requested their files, it appears that one of the reasons the SIS is withholding Kelsey’s file is that it may not want to reveal its surveillance techniques and activities - that is, that the SIS was electronically spying on Professor Kelsey while she was going about her paid work as an academic.

In New Zealand the law confers statutory protection on academic freedom, which it defines as the ‘freedom of academic staff and students, within the law, to question and test received wisdom, to put forward new ideas and to state controversial or unpopular opinions’. The law also guarantees academics the right and responsibility to act as ‘critic and conscience’ of society. Moreover, there is an obligation on all government agencies to preserve and enhance academic freedom.

Academic freedom has been regarded in New Zealand as fundamental to the health of our universities. It enables members of staff to exercise free criticism and independent judgment in the interests of their university and the various communities it serves. University staff must remain free of the forces of special interests and political interference, if they are to fulfill society’s expectations and their educational responsibilities.

Kelsey, who has been working to challenge the SIS over both its spying and its failure to disclose its activities, notes that the SIS has a history of spying on academics. The file of economist Wolfgang Rosenberg dates back 50 years, and includes comments he made in his university common room and his applications for academic jobs. Recent files of other academics focus on lawful activities undertaken in the course of their employment as academics, such as giving lectures, or participating in conferences.

Sadly for our nascent Hollywood script, we have to assume that the SIS is not spying on Dr Kelsey and others like her because they believe she is likely to fly an airplane into the University of Auckland staff common room, or hurtle an Aston Martin down Auckland’s Hobson Street towards Sky City Casino. More likely, and more chillingly, they simply do not like her outspoken critiques of the country’s economic and trade policies.

Much of the spying appears to have occurred in Dr Kelsey’s university workplace. Dr Kelsey’s 55 minute lectures on international law may not be featuring at the cinema matinee, but they are heard by many people looking for critical debate on current issues. They are ensuring that our government remains accountable in some of those murky areas where it is hard for the mainstream media and the general public to easily follow.

That’s why the story of Kelsey’s SIS file is intimidating for all academics. Our democracy will be weakened if tertiary researchers and teachers are scared off from questioning official policies in their own fields of expertise. But that seems to be exactly the outcome the SIS was aiming for with its long-running campaign against Dr Kelsey.

Quality of Education in Branch Campuses in Asia
By Professor Terence Gomez

Faculty of Economics and Administration, University of Malaya

We are confronted with an important paradox. In the developing world, such as Asia, as the size of the middle class grows, more young people now vie for entry into the limited number of public universities. In response to this demand for tertiary education, a growing number of universities from more industrialized countries have begun establishing branch campuses in Asia. These branch campuses are unquestionably a boon to bright students in developing countries who are unable to secure a place in public universities and cannot afford to study abroad. Indeed, countries in the Middle East and East Asia, especially China; and within Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia and Singapore, actively court premier universities worldwide to establish branch campuses, providing them with important incentives to do so. However, questions are being raised about the quality of education provided by these branch campuses that have mushroomed in rapidly industrializing Asia. This is an important criticism that requires thoughtful assessment – and sound remedies – as there appears to be a perceptible difference in the quality of academic standards between these universities’ main campuses and their branches in Asia.

This paradox raises a number of issues but there is one key reason why an assessment of the quality of education provided by these branch campuses must be undertaken. Undergraduates today acquire huge debts while pursuing their degrees in these university branches. This issue raises several pertinent questions: Are students being adequately trained by the faculty in their pursuit of an academic degree as a fair return for the debts they have acquired? Are these university branches as duty-bound to ensure that the students who come under their tutelage are well-trained, as they would be in the home campus, where there is stringent government oversight over their academic programmes? Put differently, are the pedagogical styles and methods that these students are exposed to in the branch campus equivalent to the quality they would have received had they enrolled in the main university?

Other questions arise: In their pursuit of adequate returns on their investments in Asia, do these universities, particularly privately-funded institutions, compromise on the quality of undergraduate and postgraduate candidates who are granted admission into their programmes? Since it is these universities themselves who decide on the selection of candidates for their courses, has this led to a perceptible decline in the quality of students entering their institutions? Are these branches compelled to take in more students than they can accommodate to ensure they remain financially stable? And, if so, is the ratio of staff to students one where academics can properly interact with and train those who come under their tutelage?

A cursory view of branch campuses in Asia does raise other concerns that draw attention to the quality of education that their students obtain. Those employed as academics in these branch campuses do not have the adequate training; a disturbingly large portion of them do not have doctoral degrees and do not have high quality academic publications. Most academics employed to teach in these branches possess merely a Masters degree, hardly a requisite qualification for acceptance into the faculty at the main campus.

It is, moreover, a common complaint among academics that university managements worldwide have compromised on the length of time it now takes for a candidate to obtain a Masters degree. In British and Australian universities, for example, a Masters degree can be obtained between nine and eighteen months. In the past, a Masters candidate would be required to write a full dissertation, about equivalent to what is required of a doctoral thesis, which is assessed by external referees, before he or she can be granted the degree. A person with a Masters degree obtained within a short span of time who is appointed as a lecturer is unlikely to be adequately skilled to conduct tertiary level programmes. Importantly, too, such lecturers would probably still be theoretically weak in the foundations of their respective disciplines. And yet, the highest qualification of a number of academics in the branch campuses is just a Masters degree.

Another serious problem prevalent among academics in the branch campuses is that they have inadequate time for research. It is also likely that branch campuses hardly provide their staff with financial incentives to do research as this would have an impact on their capacity to turn a profit. It is also probable that the infrastructure and support mechanisms in these branch campuses are hardly conducive for academic research, even where such funding is available. For example, lecturers who do secure funding for research are still required to carry the same workload of teaching, a factor that impairs the amount of quality time they can give to both their students and for the preparation of academic publications. Lecturers who supervise a large number of post-graduate candidates are similarly required to retain the same teaching load even if they have secured funding for research.

This paradox has to be resolved as it is highly probable that the rights of both students and academics at branch campuses are being undermined. The resolution to this paradox will ensure that all universities strive to ensure academic principles and that priorities are kept intact when they establish branches abroad, especially to meet the urgently expanding needs of developing countries.

Clash of Values between Turkish Government and University Professors
By Carol Corillon
Executive Director
The International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies

Last May tens of thousands of Turkish university students and many faculty members demonstrated in the capitol, Ankara, against the detention, harassment, and interrogation of students and scholars, including such prominent academics as the founder and rector of Baskent University, professors who are former rectors of other universities, and university faculty from several provinces.  They also protested alleged attempts by the government to desecularize the universities.

Many of the academics now on trial are internationally recognized and respected.  They are not known to have ever practiced or advocated violence or to have been involved in criminal activity.  It appears that their detentions are the government’s response to their having exercised their rights to free speech—a situation that now surely intimidates other academics and students from expressing their own, possibly secularist, views.  The police reportedly took the academics from their homes in pre-dawn raids—after previously wire-tapping their telephones.  The police interrogated them, released some, and imprisoned others.  Most of the jailed academics are avowed secularists; many are political activists and outspoken opponents of the ruling Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP); some are ultra-nationalists; others have resolutely resisted what they perceive as the current government’s efforts to assert Islamic influence over Turkey’s universities—an effort which the secularists view as antithetical to academic values.

Other detained academics support the headscarf ban in Turkish universities as made explicit in the 1982 constitution, a law imposed by the military government following a coup.  Supporters of the ban argue that the Islamic headscarf is a political symbol and to wear it on university campuses amounts to the first step down a slippery slope toward undermining Turkey’s secular identity. In the late 1990’s, hundreds of headscarf-wearing Turkish women who were turned away from Turkish universities challenged the ban in the European Court of Human Rights. In 2005 the court supported the headscarf ban, deciding it accorded with the Turkish Constitution and its principles of secularism and equality.

In 2008, after the majority of the Turkish Parliament voted in favor of lifting the headscarf ban and amending the Constitution, the secularists appealed to the Supreme Court for annulment of the ruling, and again they won.  The current government and human rights groups argue that the headscarf ban on university campuses violates the right of students to education and of students and teachers to privacy.  It discriminates against women for their religious beliefs and violates their rights to freedom of thought, expression, conscience, and religion.   

Another point of contention between the AKP and secularist university faculty has been the teaching of evolution, which came to a head this year—the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin.  There were credible accusations of government-imposed censorship of an article about Darwin and evolution that allegedly was to have appeared in a Turkish government scientific journal.  Shortly thereafter, and in conjunction with  considerable outrage expressed by the international scientific community, the Turkish Academy of Sciences shared its views on teaching evolution in a formal statement, reminding the public that “the greatest pitfall in the way of attaining a modern knowledge based society of the Turkish community is overlooking of scientific facts.  Evolution is a scientific fact that is accepted by modern science.  Falsification, evasion, obstruction of communication in any way of this fact is unacceptable.”  

Lastly, in July of this year, Turkey’s Higher Education Board, now composed of many recently appointed academics who support the AKP, amended strict university admissions qualifications, making it easier for graduates of the state-run religious high schools to gain entry.  This move, opposed by respected academics, was previously thwarted by the courts as anti-secularist.  

The arrested academics have been lumped together with some 90 other defendants (primarily current and former members of the military, but also journalists, police, businessmen, union leaders, politicians, etc.) in what is known as the Second Trial.  (The First Trial, begun in 2008, involved 86 defendants and is ongoing.)  Those in the Second Trial stand accused, as do those in the First Trial, of belonging to a so-called “Ergenekon armed terrorist network”—reputed by the prosecution to be a secretive and sinister group of ultranationalist criminals associated with long-standing political violence in Turkey.  Most of the charges claim that the defendants have been associated with plans to overthrow the current, democratically elected, Islamist government.

Since 1960, the Turkish military has overthrown the government four times and serious criminals appear to be among the detainees now on trial.  However, no details or evidence produced by the judiciary to date shows that an Ergenekon network ever existed.  As one well-informed journalist living in Turkey recently asked, “How does one disprove the existence of something that never existed in the first place?”  This is just one of the many conundrums the detained academics are now confronting in their trial.  

In the course of the last two years, the Turkish police have picked up several hundred people for questioning during a number of raids—most carried out illegally, in the dark of night.  Of the detained academics, the police released a number of them outright after questioning, some were released pending trial for health reasons, and others remain incarcerated, regardless of their state of health.

About two hundred people have now been charged, and three lengthy, reportedly rambling and illogical indictments (15,880 pages) have, to date, been issued.  Two separate mass trials related to the Ergenekon investigation are underway, but there are serious doubts that justice will prevail.  While it is believed that serious criminals are among those who have been detained, a much broader net has been cast in recent months, resulting in the detention of academics who are believed to have done nothing more than exercise their rights to freedom of opinion and expression.  In the words of an internationally known and highly respected Turkish scientist, “these arrests are part of the Islamist AKP government’s manipulation of its supporters among the judiciary system in Turkey to establish a regime of terror against those who oppose their Islamist agenda.”  Clearly, subjecting the academics—some of whom are seriously ill—to incarceration and possibly a long, dragged out trial, serves neither justice nor higher education.  

Turkey’s well-deserved reputation for having some of the most highly respected universities and faculty in the region is eroding.  Could the Turkish government be susceptible to appeals, written by university faculty the world over, to release their esteemed Turkish colleagues and to respect and restore autonomy and academic values to Turkey’s distinguished universities?  Why not appeal and find out?  

Following is information on some of the academics believed to be facing trial.  A variety of sources were used to compile the list.  Clearly, it is incomplete.      

Kemal Alemdaroğlu is a surgeon and former rector of Istanbul University, believed to be out on bail.

Riza Ferit Bernay is a medical doctor and former rector of 19 Mayis University.

Cihan Demirci is a biologist.  He is a professor in the departments of biology and zoology in the Faculty of Science at Istanbul University.

Emin Gürses is an associate professor at Sakarya University.  He received a Ph.D. from the department of political science and international relations at Boğaziçi University.

Kemal Gürüz is professor and former president of the Turkish Council of Higher Education and the Turkish Scientific and Technical Research Council.  Dr. Gürüz was a fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University from 2004-2005.  He is believed to be out on bail.

Mehmet Haberal is founder and rector of Başkent University in Ankara and owner of Başkent hospital and the television channel, Kanal B.  Dr. Haberal is a distinguished surgeon who performed the first organ transplantation in Turkey.  He suffers from cardiac arrhythmia, as well as severe anxiety and depression.

Fatih Hilmioğlu is a medical doctor.  He is a professor at Başkent University and former rector of İnönü University in Malatya.  Professor Hilmioğlu suffers from facial paralysis.

Erol Manisali is professor emeritus of economics at Istanbul University and has served as publisher of the monthly Middle East Business and Banking, director of the Istanbul-based Cyprus Foundation, and director of the European and Middle East Research Center.  He suffers from cancer.

Metin Öztük is a political scientist.  He is professor in the Department of International Relations at Gazi University and president of the research group, POLSAR (Political and Strategic Research), which published the Journal of International Relations.

Ümit Sayın is a neurologist and associate professor of forensic medicine at Istanbul University.

Orhan Tunç is a writer and lecturer emeritus at Balıkesir University.

Ayşe Yüksel is professor at Van Yüzüncü Yil University School of Medicine and former vice rector of the University.

Mustafa Abbas Yurtkuran is a medical doctor and former rector of Uludağ University in Bursa.  Professor Yurtkuran suffers from coronary heart disease and recently had a bypass operation on four coronary arteries.

Kwadwo Appiagyei-Atua, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Legon & member of the African Academic Freedom Network
James Lebbie, Temporary Teaching Assistant at the University of Sierra Leone, and until recently Director of the University Radio Station, Radio Mount Aureol, currently pursuing graduate studies at Fordham University, New York


The right to academic freedom derives from other rights and freedoms such as freedoms of thought, conscience, religion, expression, assembly, association and movement; and rights to life, liberty, education and culture. It is therefore a freedom that cannot enjoy a separate existence or be enjoyed in isolation. It needs other freedoms to flourish and its enjoyment promotes or facilitates the enjoyment of other rights and freedoms.  On that basis, it can be concluded that the struggle for academic freedom is an integral part of the general struggle for human rights. Like judicial freedom, the enjoyment of academic freedom is not necessarily to promote the interest of the individual academic but as a tool to promote academic excellence, generally.

To talk about academic freedom in the African context, it is important to situate the discussion in its past in order to better relate it to the present and future.

Pre-Colonial Period

In the olden days, education was acquired generally through informal means but it was not devoid of the issue of academic freedom. The quest for knowledge and wisdom and the need to share it without any hindrance is something that was, and remains, deeply engrained in the African culture and reflected in proverbs, folktales, songs, symbols, etc. In one such folklore the story is told of an attempt by the mythical, enigmatic and mischievous figure, Kwaku Ananse (the Spider) to gather all wisdom into a pot and hide it away from the rest of the world up a tree. This way, he would be in a position to manipulate and control the rest of the world since he would be sole repository of wisdom. However, his attempt to climb the tree with the pot was met with some intractable difficulties as he hung the pot on his chest, instead of on his back. A passer-by who saw Ananse advised him to place the pot at his back to ease his journey up the tree. On hearing this, Ananse realised that he had not been able to gather all wisdom from the earth. So, in his state of vexation, he dropped the pot which led to wisdom spreading to all, and not becoming the preserve of a few.

Thus, in the African context, it can be said the idea of a Philosopher King was foreign. However, it was the belief that wisdom relates to experience and knowledge; and experience and knowledge, to old age and exposure to different worldviews and circumstances.  Knowledge was acquired from the elders through ‘learning under their feet.’ It meant following the footsteps of those older than you.  In most societies, traditional forms of non-governmental organizations in the form and shape that exist today were formed to educate the young and prepare them for adulthood. Among these were the Poro societies, gender-based, male-dominated groups which were predominant in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Their role was to prepare men for leadership in the community. There were also the Sande societies which championed women's social and political interests and promoted solidarity among women. The Sande were a countervailing force against the Poro. In such contexts, academic freedom was respected as students (children and youth) had the freedom to learn from their elders and elders were not restrained by the chiefly authorities on what they could teach the young, subject to respect for morality and the well-being of one’s neighbour. However, academic freedom was restricted as the young and women had to imbibe what was taught without having the freedom to question authority or existing knowledge. Knowledge was deemed ossified and reified. In the same way, elders were not supposed to question the diktat of the gods coming through the priest.

At the formal level, Africa could boast of some institutions of higher learning such as the University of Sankore in Timbuktu in 15th century Songhay Empire. According to historical accounts, the organisation of the education system epitomised high regard for academic freedom. For example, scholars were not restricted from writing their own books and selling them for profit. Also, at the equivalent of the first degree level, it is said that the learning was conducted around interactive discussions on philosophical and religious issues. At the graduate level, professors (Sheiks) were consulted fon a regular basis by the political leadership for their opinions which were highly regarded as authoritative sources for solutions to problems facing the society.

Colonial Period

During the colonial era, formal education was not meant for the benefit of the Africans themselves but primarily to make Africans more ‘productive’ for the colonial system. Facilities put in place were limited and unevenly distributed.  Moreover, universities established were placed under the suzerainty of the established universities in the metropolitan states. In some colonies, particularly the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola, no universities were set up until rather late.

Second Installment: Academic Freedom in the Independence Period in Africa.

Third Installment: Academic Freedom in the Post-Cold War/Globalisation Era in Africa.

There will be no human rights unless humans write
By Bozorgmehr Shakib*
Professor of Political Science and SAR Scholar from Iran

The post-coup collective show trials in Iran were seen as a reduced replica of the same trials in former Soviet Union. In addition to a number of Iranian academics and activists, international public media and social networks on the Internet, eminent scholars like Max Weber, Jürgen Habermas and John Keane were all accused by name as the sources of threat against the national security in those trials. But, in Iran, the statement of accusation went far beyond this and accused the humanities and social sciences departments in the universities of triggering the unrest against the regime. This was mirrored later in the speeches of the Supreme Leader in which he said he had been worried about the fact that more than seventy percent of Iranian university students (amounting to 2.5 out of 3.5 million) are studying humanities and social sciences, because these branches of knowledge, he believes, stemming from atheism, contaminate the minds and souls of the Iranian youth and spread the seeds of doubt. This, and other factors, led soon afterwards to the ratification of the law of Islamification of the academia in the Higher Council for the Cultural Revolution.

The question is why and how did the Iranian academia, and especially the departments of humanities and social sciences, make the regime in Iran feel threatened? The answer perhaps can be thought of by drawing on the metaphor, which the Supreme Leader himself used to represent the unsatisfied expectations of the regime with regard to the universities. According to the Supreme Leader, “we” and the “enemies” are in the middle of a battlefield, in which university students should function as soldiers and professors as commanders. This metaphor shows its true significance specifically when we do not miss the point that one of the titles of the leader in Iran, according to the Constitution, is Commander in Chief.  This metaphor may represent intensely in the shortest and clearest way what seems wrong with the Iranian academia from the regime’s point of view. While part and parcel of the logic that animates the relationship between a commander in chief and the soldier is obedience, and, in time of war, even blind obedience, the humanities and social sciences teach critical reasoning. They teach, inter alia, how to criticise the power relations and the policies and decisions made and conducted by the government. This is what the leader and many other officials in Iran have constantly referred to as ‘spreading the seeds of doubt’.

What I understand from the emerging developments in Iran is that the Green Movement has taken shape as a civil rights movement. It consists of a variety of socio-political vectors which point towards reforming the current regime of power in Iran in order to make it accommodate more the plurality of the forms of life Iranians live, increased respect for human rights and for the democratic values of the Constitution. This is for the most part a result of the endeavours of the Iranian scholars and writers who publicised these sorts of values. 

The noticeable non-violent characteristic of the current movement is one of the most unrivalled achievements of the Iranian academics’ contribution to this movement. The value academics have added to this movement is two-fold. On the one side, they have coloured it green, which is the colour of peace in Iranian culture, by entrenching the idea that violence generates further violence; blood cannot be washed off by blood. On the other, they shaped it as a civil movement, which is seeking human and democratic rights regardless of any type of ideology. This is the power of words, of knowledge, released to speak out in papers, articles, lectures and particularly through social networks on the Internet. If humanities and social sciences were all taught and discussed within the closed circles of experts and students, as they used to be in Iran for decades, they could not have made the regime of power in a closed society feel threatened. When the academic circles open the doors towards the public, the society cannot remain closed anymore. Human rights values are common values and should be spread commonly through public discussions. There will be no human rights unless humans write. This indicates once more how significant and relevant is the international support for the academics of the countries of emerging and ongoing democracies to restore their broken network of communication with their own people

*Name changed to protect the author's identity.   

Ukraine and the Bologna process: tricks and moves
Georgiy Kasianov
International Renaissance Foundation

In May 2005 in Bergen, Norway, Ukraine’s representative signed the Bologna declaration and Ukraine ‘joined the club’. Ukraine became a legally recognized participant of the Bologna process.  
The entrance of Ukraine into the venture was rather dramatic – in the bureaucratic sense of the term drama. Until 2003, the majority of Ukraine’s decision-makers and stakeholders were completely unaware of the Bologna initiative, its goals, principles and intermediate results. In September 2003, the Ukrainian Minister of Education, Mr. Vasyl Kremen attended a meeting of the Ministers of Education in Berlin in which the Bologna process was discussed. It was only there that he learned that a certain set of actions and developments aimed at creating the ‘European higher education area/space’ were taking place for almost four years in Europe. To his great surprise, Russia joined the ‘Bologna club’ at this meeting while Ukraine was just learning about the enterprise.

The rest of the story can serve as an example of bureaucratic mobilization on behalf of  ‘noble intentions’.  In the next few months the whole educational hierarchy was put in motion – towards a ‘European higher education space’. The Ministry of Education and Sciences produced an impressive 2-year action plan which listed all components of ‘Bolognization’  - to be introduced as soon as possible. The ministry officials prepared a compulsory MA course called ‘The Bologna process and Ukraine’ which was introduced into the curriculum within a year at all higher education establishments in the country. A number of conferences under the aegis of the Ministry (international, regional and national) took place in different parts of the country with the same motto: the Bologna process is Ukraine’s major path towards a brighter European future. Rectors hastened to demonstrate their loyalty to the principles of Europeanization: within a year almost 200 universities in Ukraine reported that they had successfully introduced the ‘credit-module system’ (subsequently, the number of those blessed with this innovation increased).  Ever more establishments claimed their success in introducing a ‘European supplement to Diploma’. In 2007, the Ministry published a three-volume ‘success story’ describing Ukraine’s entrance into the Bologna process. The words ‘Bologna’ and ‘European dimension’ became commonplace in speeches and proclamations.

All of this looks like a success story, however, one problem remains  – the whole 6-year history of ‘Bolognization’ looks like a large-scale imitation caused by the desire of a handful of bureaucrats to be in line with advanced Europe. Of course, Ukrainian bureaucrats report to their European counterparts the promotion of Bologna principles in higher education. Not surprisingly, these reports are taken for granted with few reservations formulated in idioms of euro-bureaucracy newspeak. Ukraine is moving towards the Bologna benchmarks… 

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian higher education system remains unchanged. It still represents a classic example of the transitional phenomenon in which elements of a Soviet hierarchical, over-centralized system co-exist with elements of ‘wild capitalism’ with all the possible negative outcomes: outrageous corruption, diploma disease, degradation of infrastructure, decline of academic standards, lack of mobility, outdated methods of teaching and learning, lack of academic freedoms.

All this is to be painted over with Bologna colors. Will ‘Bolognization’ work in Ukraine? Of course it will – on paper mostly, as an imitation.  In real life ordinary professors will still have to teach 900 academic in-class hours per year; students will perform the most extravagant forms of plagiarism and will have almost 100% of their courses be compulsory; rectors will reign over their domains for decades under the auspices of the Ministry (or Minister), professors and academic personnel will recognize the Bologna principles but will complain that the introduction of these principles have brought new burdens with the old humiliating salaries.

The picture would be incomplete if some other developments were not mentioned. In 2005, eight universities in Ukraine formed a consortium for university autonomy – they started the movement from the grass-root level. They were welcomed neither by the Ministry, nor by many rectors from other universities.  However, they are fighting the good fight – the university autonomy issue has become a matter of nationwide discussion and of new legal initiatives, including proposed changes to the Law on Higher Education. Several universities (not surprisingly – from the list of eight) have introduced changes in their statutes aimed at greater transparency and self-governance.  Some of them managed to introduce 2-year MA programs, some – experimental PhD programs. All this is not imitation since it is undertaken at their own risk, sometimes with subsequent conflicts with central bureaucracy as well as with the wider environment, including other universities and their leadership.  These local efforts, ones that have very little in common with the bureaucratic ‘Bolognization’, are producing the real movement, and that in the end will successfully deliver Ukrainian higher education into the European higher education space.

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UNIVERSITY VALUES is an electronic bulletin featuring articles, essays and activity announcements promoting discussion and understanding of university values--including access, accountability/ transparency, academic freedom/quality, autonomy/good governance, and social responsibility. NEAR and SAR coordinate the production and circulation of the bulletin, in cooperation with an international network of contributing organizations and individuals. The views presented are those of the authors and do not necessary represent SAR, NEAR or their respective members.