Alina Chubko, Chief specialist, Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine
This year the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine approved a new procedure for awarding academic titles to scientific and scientific-pedagogical staff. One of the new requirements is to publish in periodicals included in the Scopus or Web of Science scientometric databases, in place of previous requirements to publish in journals included in the official Ukrainian VAK listings.
Obtaining the academic title of professor requires three such publications, while for lecturers the requirement is two.
This requirement has met with much resistance in the academic community. First of all, because our scientists and higher education lecturers are convinced that publications must be paid for, with the imagined costs being far higher for international publications. In fact, few are aware that this statement is false and that publication is possible free of charge. Moreover, in the case of closed journals (i.e. where, contrary to open-access journals, access to articles is limited to fee-paying subscribers) requests for payment are most likely a sign of impropriety.
The main problem is that until now, no one has even tried to show our scientists the correct path to publication. Universities do not teach how to use the respective websites with ratings of journals, how to present the work so that it meets the journal's requirements (and where to find these requirements), what the concept of peer-review is, how to communicate with the editor and more. It is clear that without this knowledge, publication in international peer-reviewed journals may seem somewhat unrealistic.
To help young Ukrainian scientists and lecturers who are engaged in research activities understand these important things, the Ministry has launched a series of training seminars entitled "How to publish in international peer-reviewed journals." The idea of conducting such training seminars was supported by the Office of the Fulbright Program in Ukraine. Speakers at the training seminars included American Fulbright-scholars researchers who work or carry out their research in Ukraine. The idea was to show that, despite the difficulties, publishing and making a real contribution to world science is a real possibility for Ukrainians. For this reason, the panel of speakers also included successful Ukrainian scientists who were able to share their experience with such publications. Speakers differed from city to city (Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv) and were chosen from the staff of local universities and research institutions. We would also like to encourage participants to continue to network and consult with colleagues who have similar experience, as often participants and trainers worked in the same institutions, but did not communicate and share their knowledge.
Another important element of the training seminars was a mandatory lecture on academic writing. With the support of the US Embassy, trainers were recruited from lecturers of academic English from the United States working in Ukrainian universities. Special attention was paid to the issue of plagiarism and proper use of references in journal articles. Unfortunately authors often plagiarize inadvertently out of a lack of understanding of what is and isn´t considered plagiarism. Because the requirements of international peer-reviewed publications are much more stringent than they are accustomed to (especially because the universities have traditionally given this issue very little attention), this can be a barrier to publication for Ukrainian authors. For quality foreign journalism plagiarism in an article results in immediate rejection. However plagiarism is not only the act of copying text without attribution, but also includes poor quality re-phrasing as well as the inclusion of borrowed expressions without proper referencing.
All training materials (videos of speakers and their presentations) and other useful materials are available via the website of the Ministry
In particular, many useful links to search for the right journal for publication can be found in the presentation by Fulbright scholar Nathan Pickett.
More about different forms of plagiarism, how to cite sources and where to look for literature can be found in the materials on Academic Writing - 1 , 2 , 3 .
There is still a lot of work, both for the Ministry in order to create appropriate conditions for Ukrainian scientists and lecturers and for researchers themselves, as publishing in quality international journals requires a lot of time and effort. However it is important to realize that publications are necessary not primarily as an end unto themselves in order to fulfill norms. More importantly, publication is necessary in order for our scientific community to be seen and noticed in the world, because we indeed have something to share.
What is "internationalization of education"? What advantages does it provide to Ukrainian higher education institutions?
What opportunities are there for Ukrainian higher education institutions to develop their international component? Where to start?
The internationalization of higher education refers to strengthening the international component of Ukrainian higher education institutions. Its main components are: development of international cooperation through academic exchange programs (academic mobility of students and teaching staff), the introduction of ECTS, simplifying procedures for the recognition of qualifications, development programs for foreign students, the development of international cooperation in the scientific and research fields.
The Law of Ukraine "On Higher Education" contains a separate chapter (XIII, Articles 74, 75, 76), defining and regulating international cooperation.
The process of internationalization is important for Ukrainian higher education first and foremost because it provides opportunities and mechanisms for quality improvement. Decades of international isolation during the Soviet period and subsequent development which did not include active involvement in international processes have led to Ukrainian higher education loosing its quality and international recognition. Science, which a priori is international, can not develop without reference to and understanding of the international context.
The Ministry of Education of Ukraine emphasizes the importance of all possible components of international cooperation and provides maximum support to higher education institutions ready to implement the various elements of internationalization. Active financial and consulting support is provided by international partners in cooperation with MES.
In particular, the British Council in Ukraine maintains a separate program entitled "Internationalization of Higher Education", the purpose of which is to promote the Law of Ukraine "On Higher Education" in the part relating to international cooperation. The program provides for study visits and partnership cooperation between British and Ukrainian universities in the fields of quality assurance, teaching English, the development of university autonomy and the development of student governance. More than 20 Ukrainian universities have received grants from the British Council in Ukraine for the development of international cooperation by participating in the competition for years 2015/2016. For a complete list of Ukrainian universities and their British partner universities see the website of the British Council in Ukraine .
Why is cooperation with the company that develops the bibliographic and abstract database Scopus important for the development of Ukrainian higher education and science?
What new opportunities for Ukrainian scientists will be created as a result of cooperation with the company "Elsevier"?
Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine and the company "Elsevier" have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which provides:
- Special conditions for access to full-text content through Science Direct and abstract databases for the scientific community of Ukraine;
- Access via Scopus citation index for universities and scientific organizations of Ukraine;
- Development and implementation of tools to use analytical data belonging to the company in the relevant information and analytical systems of the Ministry of Education.
"Elsevier" is one of the world's largest publishers of scientific, technical and medical research products as well as the developer and owner of the bibliographic and abstract database SCOPUS. Cooperation with the publishing house is essential for the development of Ukrainian science and higher education and improving these at the international level. In addition, such cooperation is important for the implementation of the Law of Ukraine "On Higher Education" and "On science and scientific and technical activities".
The Ministry of Education is actively conducting consulting work (on-site and online training) regarding the publication of works of Ukrainian scientists in journals included in international scientometric databases. Cooperation with "Elsevier" makes the process easier and more accessible.
In addition, the memorandum of cooperation provides for the introduction in 2016 of the Scopus Award Special Prize of Ukraine for researchers in the natural sciences, medicine, physics, chemistry, mathematics, materials science, agriculture, social sciences and humanities.
In the "Public discussion" section on the website of the Ministry of Science and Ukraine, a draft MES order "On approval of the recognition obtained in foreign higher education degrees" has been opened to public debate. It concerns Ukrainian citizens and foreigners who have obtained academic titles - degrees of Doctor of Science and / or Doctor of Philosophy - at universities or research institutions in other countries and wish to have these confirmed in Ukraine.
Recognition procedure may be carried out by the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine. In this case, the results are universal for all universities and research institutions in Ukraine. Also, recognition of degrees obtained abroad may be made by the Academic Council of a particular higher education or research institution. In this case, the results are valid for admission to employment or enrolment in this institution.
A list of documents required for the recognition of an academic title or degree gained at a foreign university or scientific institution has been annexed to the order.
Recognition is not required for documents issued by the certifying authorities of the USSR and the Russian Federation concerning the results of theses presented before September 1, 1992;
Doctoral degrees can not be recognized without prior recognition of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy or an equivalent;
Particular rules apply for recognition of degrees obtained in foreign universities which are members of the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU ) and in universities / research institutions in OECD countries: In this case, the procedure is carried out without preparing an opinion on the scientific and practical value of the thesis.
The possibility of free choice of subjects by university students is provided for in the Law of Ukraine "On Higher Education" and the implementation of the principle of free choice in practice is an important part of the implementation of this law. The law stipulates that at least 25% of total subjects must be elective.
Why is this important? The possibility of free choice of subjects relevant for both universities, as so they obtain students who are motivated to learn and better prepared and for students, because through the choice of subjects they learn to plan their educational and professional trajectory, broadens their worldview and become accustomed to think strategically and a few steps ahead. In addition, the ability to freely choose courses in higher education is an incentive to improve the level of teaching because teachers are interested in encouraging students to take their course and the university administration will try to attract the best teachers.
In practice, this provision remains more or less theoretical. Sometimes universities do not give students the right to choose, sometimes this right is purely formal and exists only on paper. Ukrainian universities in which students may truly chose minor disciplines and where university administration takes this into account when drawing up curricula are currently only a small minority.
What steps are necessary to make a difference and where to start? The CEDOS analytical center, after examining the situation with the introduction of elective subjects in Ukrainian universities, has developed practical recommendations for students, faculty and university administrations, of which the main ones are:
Students: Should be active participants in the educational process and understand that without active request from them, the situation will not change or will change slowly. The more they defend their right to choose courses, the faster this provision will be implemented. It is important that active students work on this issue together with supporters from amongst teaching staff in order to lobby the administration of respective higher education institutions. Possible forms of cooperation include creating a university working group on the development and implementation of free choice of subjects according to the Law of Ukraine "On Higher Education".
Teachers: Should actively campaign among students, both about the content of possible elective courses and the principle of choice of courses. Also important is collaboration with the administration of the higher education institution to develop clearly understood procedures for the selection of subjects.
Administration: Should maintain a dialogue with teachers and students and most importantly employers. Often students explain their low motivation to study a given discipline, arguing that in their opinion it isn't relevant to their future careers. Employers themselves can help universities identify competencies that are important for graduates in the labor market, which can be acquired in respective elective subjects.
Note the fact that the tight schedules "without timetable gaps" that are traditionally put in place by Ukrainian higher education institutions, impede the introduction of elective subjects. Therefore this principle of establishing timetables needs to be reviewed. It is easy to explain with an example: let's say history and sociology students both follow a tight schedule with no timetable gaps with classes following one after the other (first, second, third etc.). In this case, the schedule does not allow them to choose and hear subjects from a different speciality (for example history subjects for sociology students and vice versa), because it is physically impossible. It is also important to study and use the experience of Ukrainian higher education institutions, which have already successfully implemented the free choice of subjects.
All interested participants in Ukrainian higher education - students, teachers, university administration - must understand that elective disciplines are not only the a legal requirement which should be introduced for reporting purposes, but also offers new opportunities for all. Winners will be (and some cases already are) those higher education institutions which are the first to offer such possibilities.
The establishment of consolidated schools in the regions, as well as school reform in general has been subject to much public interest and debate. The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine has created a special section on its website dedicated to the concept of consolidated schools.
It contains a presentation of the concept of consolidated schools, as well as information about the schedule and content of regional thematic workshops entitled "Effective management of education in merged municipalities - From the establishment of a supervisory body to the implementation of the plan for the optimization of the school network".
Key issues related to the establishment and operation of consolidated schools are:
Why is it necessary to establish consolidated schools? Consolidated schools are important to ensure that children from rural areas, regardless of their place of residence, have access to quality education and acceptable learning conditions. "Acceptable learning conditions" refers to school buildings, availability of sports facilities, stadiums, specially equipped classrooms and laboratories for physics, chemistry, biology, etc., opportunities to participate in various extra-curricular activities and clubs. In addition, consolidated schools provide conditions for the inclusive education of children with special needs.
What classes are affected by consolidated schools? Consolidated schools will educate pupils from grades 5-12. Younger pupils from 1st to 4th grade will attend primary schools located directly at their place of residence.
Who will manage the consolidated schools? Local government bodies decide on the establishment of consolidated schools, carry out the distribution of funds from educational grants and own revenues between school districts and schools, appoint principals decide issues of material and technical equipment of schools and catering for pupils.
Who will solve transportation issues for pupils of consolidated schools?Local governments are responsible for organizing transportation of pupils and teachers to local schools in school transport.
What schools can become consolidated schools? What are the requirements and criteria for establishing consolidated schools? Consolidated schools will be selected among schools in the region on a competitive basis. The decision on which institution will host the consolidated school will be decided by a regional selection committee. Read more about the make-up of the selection committees and conditions of the competition in the section "Consolidated Schools" on the MES website.
What is meant by the "individual" form of learning? What is its purpose?
What categories of students are eligible for individual form of education?
On April 1, 2016 the MES order "On approval of the individual form of education in schools" will come into force.
The order determines the categories of persons, in this case school pupils, who can study according to an individual schedule and the calculation of remuneration for teachers who teach these children.
Individual form of teaching means that the pupil does not attend classes in the school with other children, and deals with the teacher or teachers for different subjects individually, according to their own schedule. In addition, these students can engage with the teacher in person, or their training may be carried out remotely.
Under the Regulations, the right to training according to an individual schedule applies to:
- Pupils with special needs for health reasons, including those that are in temporary, but long-term (over one month) treatment in hospitals;
- Pupils from rural areas if their classes include less than 5 persons;
- Gifted children with high academic potential who can rapidly complete school;
- Pupils who live in the zone of armed conflict in the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine or in territories affected by natural or man-made disasters;
- Pupils who are refugees or stateless persons, or are the children of such persons (refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons).
The order also defines the list of documents required for enrolment for individual learning.
After the expiration of the term for individual forms of education, pupils may continue studies in the respective local school.
What is the effect of decentralization on printing educational degrees and diplomas?
What changes have occurred in the process of preparing diplomas of higher education and school certificates?
The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine has changed the system for printing education certificates and diplomas. This applies to both school certificates and higher education or vocational education diplomas and certificates. The purpose of these changes is to simplify the procedure for the preparation of education diplomas and certificates, reduce costs and end respective monopolies.
Since 2001, printing of education documents (diplomas, student IDs) was allocated to a single company which held a monopoly and profited from hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian graduates of schools, higher education institutions and other educational institutions. The reason is that diplomas and student cards in plastic form allegedly offer a higher level of protection against counterfeiting and ensure "authenticity" of the document.
Last year the Ministry of Education abolished the mandatory requirement for higher education institutions to print "plastic" documents. At the same time, each higher education institution became free to determine where and how it wishes to print diplomas for its graduates and what form they will take. Protection of the authenticity certificates is no longer based on plastic and holograms, but the number and series of documents which higher education institutions receive through state enterprise "Inforesurs." The number and series of diplomas is unique and can be checked online on the website http://www.inforesurs.gov.ua/ .
This practice has provided substantial savings. In some higher education institutions, the printing costs of diplomas were reduced several times over. Where the earlier cost of printing a document reached 80 hryvnias, under the new rules the cost had fallen to 34 hryvnias. Many educational institutions have been able to print diplomas at even lower cost.
In addition, the government has decided to change the process of preparing and printing of school certificates. Template documents on secondary education are now developed centrally (certificate, attestation and annexes) while actual documents are printed locally. This will save significant budget funds, which will be spent on other educational needs.