Current Government Threatens Academic Freedom In Ukraine

CHICAGO, USA -- On Monday, March 19, the Board of Directors of the Chicago-based Kyiv-Mohyla Foundation of America met in Chicago to support the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, a premier university in Ukraine, and passed a resolution in response to a crisis of democracy and academic freedom in Ukraine.

Ukraine's Minister of Education, Research and Sports, Dmitro Tabachnik, is staunchly pro-Russian.

The Board will send the resolution to Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych, calling for policy reforms to support Ukraine's choice for democracy, and intellectual and economic prosperity.

The Kyiv-Mohyla Foundation's Co-chairmen are William Green Miller, former U.S. Ambassador of the United States to Ukraine, and Minister Borys Tarasyuk, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on European Integration and Ukraine's former Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In a statement to the board, Ambassador William Green Miller said, "We believe a free academic community is critical to the maintenance of a vibrant and viable democratic society."

He continued, "The actions of Ukraine's administration toward the country's higher learning will ultimately govern the ability of Ukraine to achieve democracy and full nationhood."

Ukraine's Ministry of Education, Research and Sports, led by Minister Dmitro Tabachnik, has not met the lawful obligations of the Bologna Declaration Ukraine signed in 2010, joining 28 European nations as signatories, promising to reform the country's higher education system allowing for academic freedom and university autonomy.

The Declaration includes specific requirements for integration of academic programs so that university degrees can have reciprocity and courses can be transferred between European countries.

Since the signing, the ministry has reversed the move toward European standards and transparency and it has assumed a centralized policy of control.

Minister Tabachnik has proposed laws undermining the European declaration and has used selective funding to exert government control of the nation's universities.

He has withheld grants and levied other economic hardships, singling out the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, the nation's oldest and most reform-minded university for particularly harsh treatment.

"Democracy in Ukraine is only two decades old and the danger of a return to authoritarian rule is real," stated Borys Tarasyuk, Ukraine's Parliamentary Leader for European Integration.

"Intimidating the nation's cradle of future leadership for political aims is an attack not just on academic freedom, but also on Ukraine's democratic future."

The country's current archaic education system does not provide for academic freedom, university autonomy, curriculum choices, Ph.D. programs, transparency in admissions and degree awards, independence in research, management and administration, and achievement of higher educational standards.

The issue of certification of degrees must finally be brought into focus as well.

"The absurdity of the ministry's refusal to certify foreign academic degrees and credits, even from the best universities in the world, such as Oxford, Harvard, Stanford, Sorbonne and others makes a mockery of Ukraine's entire educational system."

"And yet, the ministry continues to promote the current antiquated Soviet relic of certification known as 'nostrifikatsia,'" said Marta Farion, president of Kyiv-Mohyla Foundation of America.

About the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla AcademyThe National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, founded in 1615, is a leading university in Ukraine, much as Harvard and Yale are to the U.S. and Oxford and Cambridge are to the U.K.

The Academy is the oldest institution of higher learning in Eastern Europe and throughout its history has provided Ukraine with leaders in every sphere of endeavor including politics, military, literature, philosophy, music, and art.

It currently grants degrees, including the nation's first Ph.D.

It offers programs in key fields such as journalism, social work, political science, business, sociology, public health and a variety of programs and institutes.

The university's key role as the country's leader in education reform and as a source of human capacity for an increased role of civil society is at the core of its mission.

It continues to expand its academic programs and to press the government of Ukraine to stop the current centralization of control.

About Kyiv-Mohyla Foundation of America

The mission of Kyiv-Mohyla Foundation of America (KMFA) is to support the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy through volunteer engagement and philanthropic support to reach excellence in education and innovative research, to help students and faculty achieve personal and intellectual growth and to contribute to Ukraine's democratic reform through education with a focus on the rule of law, sustained economic growth and academic collaboration with academic, business and civic institutions within the global community of nations.

Source: Kyiv-Mohyla Foundation of America