The Bologna Reform in Ukraine

Cover of The Bologna Reform in Ukraine

Learning Europeanisation in the Post-Soviet Context



Table of contents

(12 chapters)

This is the introductory chapter of the book. This chapter explains the background and relevance of the topic of the book – the process of a national higher education reform in the post-Soviet space such as Ukraine until passing the Law about Higher Education in 2014, and the ways in which this story can inform our understanding of some aspects of the Europeanisation in the post-Soviet context. The Bologna reform is, arguably, one of the expressions of Europeanisation in post-Soviet countries that belong to the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). The Bologna Process is an international policy project for the standardisation of higher education structures in the European Higher Education Area. It comprised 29 European countries at the start of the Bologna Process in 1999, and it started incorporating more states later, a lot of which were not part of the EU. Beside the overarching goal to create the EHEA, a number of concrete objectives, called the action lines, were identified, such as the adoption of a common system of credits and cycles of study process, the development of an easily readable diploma supplement issued to graduates, the promotion of student and faculty mobility and the assurance of higher education quality.

This chapter also presents methodological considerations associated with designing the research presented in this book, such as conducting interviews and identifying policy documents – and how thematic analysis was applied to these two types of data. The case of Ukraine is characterised as instrumental because, beside the contribution it makes to how we see the Bologna reform in Ukraine itself, this case study is important for understanding wider Europeanisation issues.


This chapter reviews the theoretical literature about Europeanisation and argues the need for further analysis of post-Soviet Europeanisation. This chapter also connects post-Soviet Europeanisation to the notion of policy learning, which is introduced as a theoretical perspective. The chapter discusses the challenges around the definition of policy learning in relation to other policy processes such as transfer, translation and diffusion. Policy layering does not presuppose mutual exclusion between path-dependence and change, but rather the fruitful mutual development of both. It implies a gradual change of certain policy aspects and the retaining of others. The development of the links between path-dependence and change in layering is a highly messy process. Multiple actors participate in learning, and they create policy as they learn. There are no distinct stages of learning, and the line between policy-makers and practitioners is often blurred.

The difference between policy-making on the European level and the post-Soviet domestic context is significant. The literature about post-Soviet countries recognises the presence of a struggle between Europeanisation and post-Soviet legacies there. Europeanisation in this literature is presented as change; while the influence of the post-Soviet legacies is seen as an obstacle that hinders it. The policy learning concept is key here to frame Europeanisation in the post-Soviet context as an area of enquiry which may develop according to the logic of layering.


This chapter maps the landscape of previous research into the Bologna Process on the international and national scales. This literature shows that Bologna has internationalised higher education in post-Soviet countries, and the Bologna developments have been acknowledged in the literature to be a case of Europeanisation.

This chapter also points out a few major gaps in that research. One of them is the interconnected development of higher education actors and instruments from the perspective of the idea of layering that brings path-dependence and change in a dialogue. The research about Bologna in the national contexts focuses mainly on a more normative, evaluative side of the debate. Prior research on Bologna in post-Soviet countries and specifically in Ukraine also looks primarily at positive and negative effects of the reform on the country's higher education. There have been difficulties ‘fitting’ Bologna ideas into the established conventions in Ukraine. There have been also challenges with interpreting some action lines, such as the student-centred learning or quality assurance. These studies have mainly investigated the change of higher education policies, overlooking the exploration of the change in the system of higher education actors and their roles in the countries. The studies seem not to have placed enough emphasis on the process of the development of higher education actors and their relationships in Bologna. Neither have they looked in detail into the contribution of these actors to the development of the Bologna instruments.

The Bologna reform in the post-Soviet context, just like Europeanisation there, tends to be seen as the implementation of change which is hindered by some past conventions. In contrast, this study about Bologna in Ukraine rests on the idea of layering that brings path-dependence and change into a dialogue.


This chapter provides the details of the political context of Ukraine and presents the details of the findings of the research conducted on the higher education actors involved in the Bologna reform in Ukraine before 2014. Four clusters of actors are discussed: the central governing bodies, their consultants, civil sector organisations and higher education institutions. All of these clusters existed before Bologna. Prior to Bologna, the relationships among them were defined by the central cluster. It fully controlled the work of higher education institutions and the consultative bodies, and it avoided the influence of the civil sector. Such power relations among these actors have been partially preserved in Bologna and have been argued by the civil sector to hinder the Europeanisation of higher education. However, the strict centralisation in the higher education system of Ukraine started to weaken, albeit marginally, during Bologna. The cooperation between the civil sector and the central governing bodies strengthened, largely, due to the partnership developed between the Ministry and the National TEMPUS/ERASMUS Plus Office. The latter actor, in its turn, has been slightly diluting the strict control of the Ministry over higher education policy-making. A gradually burgeoning and increasing cooperation among different actors, facilitated primarily by the civil sector, seems to have been accompanied by a slowly decreasing centralisation in the relationships among higher education actors in Bologna.


Policy instruments are specific policies – policy content, which is associated not just with policy texts, but also with how they are negotiated and practised (Dolowitz & Marsh, 2000; Fimyar, 2008). In the context of Bologna, policy instruments are Bologna action lines (such as the credit system, the study cycles, etc.).

This Chapter explains the development of the Bologna instruments in Ukraine until 2014 through the interaction of the policy continuity and change. In particular, I review how the development of the Bologna instruments in Ukraine was triggered and guided by the Bologna action lines, as well as by the old national higher education policies. I look at the cases of four Bologna instruments. They are the system of credits, the study cycles, the diploma supplement and quality assurance. All of these instruments have been developed through the reconfiguration of the pre-Bologna policies, which were chosen by the Ministry to represent these instruments. Namely, the national module system became the basis for the Bologna system of credits. The pre-Bologna education-qualification and scientific cycles made a foundation for the Bologna study cycles. The old national diploma supplement was a reason for the delay in dealing with the Bologna diploma supplement, given that a diploma supplement existed. The national diploma supplement was taken as the Bologna instrument even though their structure and content differed. Apart from this, the pre-Bologna higher education quality assurance policies started representing the Bologna quality assurance instruments at the outset of the reform in Ukraine.

The examination of these four cases of policy instruments shows that their development began with a mere change of labels for the old policies and proceeded with building up innovations to gradually alter the old national higher education policies.


This chapter draws together the findings about both the Bologna actors and instruments to explain the mechanism of the Bologna reform in Ukraine until 2014 and its place in Europeanisation in the post-Soviet context.

This research demonstrates that continuity was mainly perpetuated by the Ministry of Education and Science, and change was facilitated by civil organisations. There was a lot of fluidity in the interaction of old practices and policy innovation in Bologna in Ukraine. The interaction between the path dependency and change was primarily a gradual chaotic, yet creative, and shared build-up of minor innovations by different higher education actors. These innovations in the development of the Bologna instruments may be seen as leading to more substantial transformations over time.

The research findings may also serve as a first step towards a reconceptualisation of the Europeanisation process particularly in the post-Soviet context in the first couple of decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Bologna in Ukraine can be seen as an illustration of the ways in which Europeanisation may not always necessitate the elimination of past conventions and practices – indeed, in a policy field such as education, abandoning history and tradition would have been a futile endeavour. Policy continuity in the post-Soviet context may be a foundation in the Europeanisation process during which minor innovations are slowly yet continuously being accumulated. This foundation shapes the nature of changes. Therefore, perhaps, the debate regarding a slow pace of Europeanisation in the post-Soviet space might be erroneous, since it carries a hidden assumption – that it is slow in relation to a much faster Europeanisation and resulting transformations in the EU. Such a comparison should be revisited in light of a potential difference in the nature of Europeanisation in the two spaces and the acknowledgement of growing overlaps between the two spaces as well.


This is the final chapter of the book. It summarises the story in the book and explains the contribution it makes. This book contributes, first and foremost, to the body of literature that investigates Bologna specifically in Ukraine, as well as Bologna in the national contexts of the post-Soviet region more broadly. Crucially, the analysis of the reform process in Ukraine also gives some insight into the literature about wider Europeanisation processes in the post-Soviet context, particularly in the area of higher education and other policy fields. The Ukrainian case has demonstrated that Europeanisation is associated with change as much as it is associated with policy continuity. The pace of post-Soviet change might be related to the interplay of different groups of policy actors who have different motivations – following the past conventions or moving away from them. Change often existed only in discourse because of strongly rooted Soviet legacies of centralisation and established policies. Europeanisation then often served as an object of appropriation by central governing bodies for demonstrating in discourse to the public that change is underway.

The Bologna Process seems to have been widening the borders of Europe further to the east more than any other previous European policy initiative (e.g., the European Union, the European Neighbourhood Policy). Bologna might also be emerging as a source of a new joint image of Europeanisation in the EHEA. Unlike most of the previous initiatives that were focused around Europeanisation in the EU or around the EU, Bologna might become a tool for assimilating different spaces (such as the EU and the post-Soviet area) in their aims for Europeanisation in the future, while at present we may speculate that Europeanisation in the post-Soviet space may be a distinct phenomenon.

Cover of The Bologna Reform in Ukraine
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