Across the Globe

Strengthening Higher Ed: One Ukrainian University at a Time

February 01, 2016
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Why does academic integrity matter so much for healthy universities?

Imagine you're a university student. You're pursuing an advanced degree in engineering and have a post-graduation dream to direct infrastructure and economic development projects in underserved regions of your country areas that have been affected by conflict to speed the recovery process and bring greater prosperity to impoverished communities.

Continue imagining that, after relentless nights of reading, studying, and reviewing past projects, you're halfway through your final exam and notice several of your peers whispering to each other and checking their phones. You act like you don't notice, because it's not worth much to pay closer attention. The exam proctor also pretends to be unaware. After all, this is how most students graduate.

When the grades are returned, you learn with near disbelief that you didn't pass. With months of studying behind you, you felt confident in your knowledge base. Most shocking of all, you learned that your peers graduated.

This story is far too common in several countries across the globe. In many middle-to-lower income countries, the best and brightest students in higher education do not always have the opportunity to succeed. When a legacy of corruption is present in state institutions, students with academic integrity often fall through the cracks.

What is Academic Integrity?
Academic integrity means that students, faculty, and administrators approach their work with earnest honesty. Plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration, cheating, and facilitating academic dishonesty are all results of a lack of integrity within a higher education system.

The level of academic integrity not only impacts the quality of education received by students, but also directly influences the types of citizens the world's educational systems produce each year.

When the values of academic integrity are ignored in higher education, scholastic dishonesty can become so commonplace that it creates a culture where dishonesty itself becomes critical for success in the system.

The Case of Ukraine
In Ukraine, colleges and universities have advanced their institutions since their departure from the Soviet Union. But these institutions still retain qualities of excessive centralization and an environment that hinders institutional development.

Dishonesty and corruption are more present than university officials care to admit. The current higher education system remains academically, administratively, and financially reminiscent of the early post-Soviet era that was marked by corruption.

However, the drive to reform the way universities operate has been making steady progress in the past few years though the work is far from finished. The Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science, the US Embassy in Ukraine, and American Councils are collaborating with ten universities in Ukraine to integrate academic integrity as a core component of the educational system.

The initiative, Strengthening Academic Integrity in Ukraine Project (SAIUP), will educate students, faculty, and administrators on the practical value and importance of academic integrity, while providing resources and a roadmap to strengthen academic integrity on campus.

The SAIUP initiative will work in parallel with the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science to support sustainable change for education in Ukraine on the national level to make academic integrity a cornerstone of the university system in the country. Now, imagine that as a future student, professor, or concerned citizen: rather empowering, don't you think?

About the Strengthening Academic Integrity in Ukraine Project (SAIUP)
Funded by the US Embassy in Ukraine, the partnership trio of the US Embassy, the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science, and American Councils will work together to make SAIUP play a central role in transforming not only Ukraine's undergraduate educational system, but to also positively influence society through the types of graduates universities will produce.

The goal of SAIUP is to change notions of academic integrity and campus behavior initially within the ten participating Ukrainian universities, but eventually to the larger higher education system. SAIUP will highlight the importance and practical value of academic integrity on campus through a high profile branding campaign, by building faculty and administrator understanding of academic integrity, and collaborating with the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science to institute policy changes.

Read more about the project from the First Deputy Minister of Education and Science in Ukraine.