The University of the 21st century should be an enriching life experience and prepare students not just for the workplace but also for society and the wider community. Sursock confirms this in the European University Association Publication: Trends 2015: Learning and Teaching in European universities stating that Student-centred learning and preparation of graduates for the labour market and society will continue to be policy objectives" (Reference: The Ukraine has started on this path but still has a long way to go. In 2014 the country passed the Ukraine’s first higher education law since 2002 with the aim of reforming the top-down model of university management and giving students and staff more say in campus affairs.Other initiatives under way include efforts to improve university quality assurance and a crackdown on plagiarism and academic fraud.
It is no longer enough to offer students knowledge and competencies. Universities should provide an experience which equips students for life at work after they have left the university. These should involve development of personal skills, experience of a real working environment, and nowadays international networking skills. These ideas have been identified by the Ministry of Education, Science, Youth and Sports in Ukraine as being a key element in Europe’s acceptance of Ukraine into the global educational community. They are also the subject of two Erasmus projects: SAGE (Student Advancement of Graduate Employability) and QUEST (Quest for Quality for Students) led by the European Students Union (www.esu-online.org).
Ukrainian universities aim to be recognised in Europe and their European partners are interested in helping them to acheive this and provide a similar university experience in terms of management and student services. This collaboration will help them all be better prepared to face the challenges of the global dynamically changing economy. The proposal identifies the following needs:
Recruitment: demographic changes indicate that potential student numbers will fall. Thus, there is a need for more focussed student centred and up to date recruitment processes.
Skills and competences: there is a need to promote creativity, competitiveness and a growth of entrepreneurial spirit. Industry needs students not only with knowledge but also with employability/self promotional skills. Ukrainian students have little experience in business and practical skills. The student societies and unions commonly found in EU universities can support the development of this skills set. A more active student life with responsibilities is needed at Ukrainian universities to provide their students with better cultural, social and financial experiences. Students should also be provided with opportunities to gain more 'soft skills' during their time at university. This also requires staff development and support.
Work placements: the majority of students go to university in order to improve their job prospects. Placements provide a key role in achieving this and preparing students for their future careers. A placement service already exists at most Ukrainian universities but it tends to be ‘ad-hoc’, haphazard and uncoordinated. It needs to be modernised to provide sustainable and effective cooperation and interaction between employers, students and the universities.
These provide the rationale to this ambitious project. The intial proposal was prepared by first opening negotiations with the Ukrainian Ministry, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the UASS to establish the major needs for the Ukraine. It was then discussed with the leading Ukrainian classical Universities. These universities were chosen for their eminence, geographical spread and influence and were then contacted to confirm their needs and how to meet these through this project and create a road map that could be used to inform the roll out to the wider Ukranian Higher Education system.