How many state-financed places will be there in different program subject areas?” – a question that is worrying thousands of parents and entrants each year. And what if we abandon the whole state-finance places, leaving, let us say, only the places on a fee basis and grants for individual students? Opinion has found out whether there is a general need for a state-financed education, which changes can lead to its abolition, or indeed, whether free knowledge is not appreciated and how it is possible to change the modern education system.

Why this year the number of state-financed places was reduced?

This year, Ukraine significantly reduced the number of state-financed places in higher education institutions. In particular, the reduction is planned at 9.6%. The Government explained: it is possible that we should expect new changes in the system of higher education, which, as a rule, will concern not only the amount of “state financing”, but also the number of scholarships.

“The total amount of students’ acceptance is envisaged in the number of 191100 people, including 171355 full-time students, that is less of approved showings of 2017 on 9.6%  and 9.5% respectively.

Starting this year, we have proposed to ban redistribution of government orders between industries. From next year a few important changes are introduced. For example, we offer an increased scholarship for students in engineering, technical, and agricultural specialties, which are currently in great need of industry, the IT sphere”, said Stepan Kubiv, Minister of Economic Development and Trade.

Do we need a state-financed form of education?

Reflecting on this issue, a political scientist Vladyslav Serdyuk explained to Opinion, that modern Ukraine needs to completely reconsider its ability to provide state-financed places, reducing their number, because, according to the expert, graduates of our universities are not competitive in the world.

“Today, it’s hard to talk about rationality when it comes to spending state funds. Look, today we have such a system, which has both an education on a fee basis and for the costs of the state. But now, tell me how much knowledge in Ukrainian universities corresponds to the real needs of today’s labor market and what is their quality? That is, it is rather a rhetorical question because graduates of Ukrainian “universities” in most cases are not competitive in the world. And this applies to everyone, regardless of the form of education (fee basis / state-financed education). Therefore, I believe that Ukraine needs to significantly reconsider its capabilities in terms of ensuring the number of state-financed places in universities and significantly reducing them because such an “education” makes no sense.

Is the country ready to finance 100 people out of which 30 will go to work by their professional qualification, and only 3 of them will be specialists? That is, the fight is for the future specialists. Because statistics say that 68% of Ukrainians do not work by their professional qualification. There is a number of reasons, for example, when you go to university you are still poorly familiar with the market situation and therefore you may be mistaken when choosing a specialty, etc.

It should be noted, that the labor market itself can affect the number of students in higher education institutions because if it will stop to demand a certificate of higher education, both the number of students as well as future students will fall sharply. For example, in Poland, all citizens study at state expense, but the main effort there is made to obtain a scholarship. It all depends on your success during the training.

Concluding, I may say, that at the moment, Ukraine doesn’t need such a number of state-financed places, it needs to make a bigger contribution to the development of higher educational institutions in order to improve the quality of education and contribute to its own economy, in order to be able to continue to give decent scholarships and state-financed  places in the future. It is a high-quality education that creates specialists, who are not enough in Ukraine”.

Vitalii Holubev, the secretary of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine and lecturer at the Department of Journalism at the National University of Ostroh Academy, said that maintaining the present system is not rational, since it is not actually a government order, but rather a grant that should become more targeted and logical in the future.

“Under conditions when the state order is not connected with the guarantees of employment, keeping the current system is irrational. All the same, we perfectly understand that this is not a state order for the training of specialists in specific areas, but simply a grant. Therefore, it can and should become more targeted and logically determined”, Vitalii Holubev emphasized.

Instead, Mariia Bangrovych, a theater and movie actress, believes that the state-financed education is a kind of a rescue for those individuals, who are not able to get education on a fee basis. However, the actress stresses: students should be chosen better so that they didn’t get diplomas “just like that”.

“I believe, that the state-financed education is a rescue for those who can not afford to study on a fee basis, and a bonus for those who have a high level of knowledge. However, a diploma should not be issued just like that. It seems to me that sometimes students still need to be expelled for the underachievements.

Regarding employment and specialists in various spheres is the responsibility of the state. European working conditions and wages will make any profession interesting and competitive”, the actress thinks out loud.

What will change if the state-financed education disappears?

According to Maryna Bagrova, a member of the board of the international union “Institute of National Policy”, higher education in Ukraine needs the transition to the European level, and if it doesn’t happen, any “little” decisions will not promote positive changes or results.

“If the state-financed education is replaced by education on the fee basis, then, given the current educational system in Ukraine, it is unlikely to lead to positive changes for citizens. The education system in Ukraine has long been in need of alignment with the education system of the European Union and the United States. The question of the reform of higher and postgraduate education is now a hot button, as never before. Only after the change of the system of higher and postgraduate education to the European university level, the education of our specialists will be taken in all European countries, along with the education received in the leading world universities. And while this will not happen, any little changes in the education system will not lead to positive results”, Maryna Bagrova commented to Opinion.

How can we change the current system?

Vitalii Holubev is convinced, that in order to improve the current system of higher education, it is enough to make only two steps. First, to postpone the start of the opportunity to study for public funds from the first year to the second. Secondly, introduce grants for the first-year tuition for socially unprotected students.

“Concerning the first proposition. I imagine it like that. In the first year, all without exception study on the fee basis, and on the results of the two first-year term exams, some students may claim their education be paid by the state. There will be a kind of contract between the scholarship student and the state, which should be renewed annually. The student will stay “focused” on the end of the training: if you want to study at state expense  – study hard. And the state will fund education for those who are studying, and not those who are fortunate enough to get a place paid by the state solely because of “previous merits” in the form of a well-passed External Independent Evaluation.

I would add to these certain criteria which the University can establish itself within the autonomy. For example, participation in university events, adherence to discipline, etc. The expected result is genuine competition for state-financed places, which will take place every year, and the availability of additional levers of student management on the part of a particular higher education. And if you want full freedom, as some people understand it, – passing exams “post factum” – no problem, but solely for their own money. The state should not pay for such a “freedom”.

As for the second proposition. Undoubtedly, there must be a system of grants for real socially unprotected students (from large families, single-parent families, etc.). They can and should be taught at state expense from the first year of study. But it should not be as it is now: the student’s parents are quite capable of paying for his studies, but the first priority goes to a particular university, he will pass External Independent Evaluation well – and welcome to the state-financed education. I do not think that it is rational”, Vitalii Holubev shared with Opinion.

Instead, Kostiantyn Denysov, a candidate of economic sciences, a member of the All-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda” and deputy head of the Zaporizhzhia regional organization Svoboda, in 2014-2017, emphasized that public investment requires a well-balanced approach and control over the further employment of a student. That is why, in Denysov’s opinion, it is necessary to make sure that, after obtaining a bachelor’s degree, the graduate has not chosen another specialization for a master degree. A separate issue is the strategic planning of the state order.

“For the last five introductory campaigns, the number of students of state-financed education has decreased by 70460 people, but their share in the overall indicator has increased from 42% to 44%. Most of the students who are at state expense, enter military and security specialties, natural sciences and engineering. This is due to the situation in the country and the demand for qualified technical personnel, who are necessary for the innovative development of the real sector of the economy.

Public investment in higher education is definitely necessary for sustainable development of the economy, but at the same time, they require a well-balanced approach. In particular, the control over graduates’ future work in state institutions or state-owned enterprises (and wages play an important role there).

In addition, full higher education in the specialty of admission should be ensured so that after the graduation of a bachelor degree, a graduate does not transfer to another specialty or to another form of training on a master degree. Because in this case, the state spending will be useless. It is advisable to introduce consumer loans for higher education, the recipient of which may be obliged to return them with a higher percentage in the case of working not by his professional qualification. Consumer loans are provided by the current Law “On Higher Education”, but they do not receive funding.

The important thing is the strategic planning of the state order for specialists in accordance with the needs of the labor market. But for this purpose, an effective strategy of socio-economic development of the country is required for at least ten years, without it, any planning is deprived of sense”, Kostantyn Denysov commented to Opinion.

Is free knowledge not appreciated?

The thesis, that students who are lucky enough to take a state-financed place don’t appreciate the received knowledge, as those, who pay for their education, often cause discussions. But are state-financed students more careless about the studying? Olena Onashchuk, a practicing psychologist and member of the Association of Psychologists of Ukraine, assured  Opinion, that in reality, such a principle works only with adults. But among young people, free education is a great motivation and even a certain tool of self-control.

“I believe, that the state-financed education should be maintained. From my own experience of communicating with different students in the past and now, I see that students who study for free are more seriously and responsibly enthusiastic about learning.

The formula “free knowledge is not appreciated” works only for adults, who pay for their studies at their own expense and then choose what they really need. Students, who pay for the education, often study at their parents’ expanse, making no own efforts. And often they are guided by the principle: “I complain, they have to give me a diploma, one way or another”.

State-financed education students have to make a lot of their own efforts to enter higher education institutions and stay there. Even a discount on fee education encourages to study better and more responsible. Moreover, the availability of state-financed places is almost the only chance to receive higher education for young talented people from villages and distant corners of Ukraine, whose parents are not able to pay for universities.

In fact, I often meet really intelligent, persistent people of keen intellect from distant corners of the country, who independently “made their way to life”, independently passed entrance exams, studied for free only because of their intellect. And the very opportunity to get free education was an important step in their development. And now, among my clients, I have such talented students.

The only thing that, in my opinion, is a lack in the state-financed education system – working places from the state for such students. And this, first of all, isn’t important for students (because by virtue of the above-mentioned factors, they themselves will be able to find decent work), but for the state, in order not to raise the question, whether the state-financed form of education is waste of state’s funds”, psychologist comments.

Text by Dmytro Zhuravel

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