Another Grand Project. Does Ukraine Need a Presidential University?

Rather, it should have been about channeling funds to the best existing universities, strengthening those scientific schools and teams that still have a positive reputation in leading foreign universities.

It would seem that the news of the creation of a new university should evoke at least some positive emotions, in response to this next wave of the demonstration of care from the part of the authorities. However, as has often been the case lately, it has provoked misunderstandings.

By presidential decree, it was decided to densely erect the buildings of a new presidential university on the territory of the National Complex Expo Center of Ukraine (the VDNG in Ukrainian). And it is not so much a surprise that one of the most popular places for active recreation in Kyiv will become a semi-enclosed "student" territory — one can only imagine what will happen to the VDNG in our practice of "large-scale construction". Throughout the civilized world, caring for nature and landscaping for a favorable environment are among top priorities. In our country, the authorities are deliberately (through another gigantic project) trying to destroy a unique natural park.

At the same time, there is no mention of the sources for the funding of this project. And this happens in conditions when the country has not even begun to emerge from the coronavirus crisis, when only the planned state budget deficit for 2021 reaches 247 billion UAH, when the state and state-guaranteed debt of Ukraine is 2.53 trillion UAH, and payments to repay public debt in January–April 2021 amounted to 142 billion UAH.

Moreover, significant costs will be required not only directly for the construction of university buildings, but also for the development of urban infrastructure in general, which is already "choked" by excessive transport and communication problems.

The issue of staff for this new "elite" university needs special attention. High-tech areas, which are supposed to be studied and developed at the new university, primarily require teams of qualified specialists and teachers, that can arise only on the basis of existing scientific schools and only where highly professional teams can be formed (which, incidentally, takes decades). Therefore, it should have been more about directing public funds to the best existing universities, strengthening those domestic scientific schools and teams that still have a positive reputation in leading foreign universities.

In addition, there is great doubt that this giant complex will be able at all to be filled by students and researchers. Thus, according to a survey conducted by the Razumkov Center, among the answers to questions about the benefits of studying in a foreign higher education institution compared to a Ukrainian one, 54.5% of respondents said that "studying at foreign universities gives a diploma that opens better prospects for high-paying employment both in Ukraine and in foreign countries", and 39.5% shared the view that "the quality of education abroad is higher than the quality of education in Ukraine". At the same time, 17.3% do not see prospects for successful self-realisation for young people in Ukraine.

Of course, in a decade of construction, these indicators are most likely to only get worse, if no accelerated measures are taken already today to maintain the demand for domestic education. In the meantime, migration related to education is expanding and accelerating, and it is not yet clear what can at least slow it down. In most cases, students, including those who have received higher education in Ukraine, try to either continue their studies or to find employment mainly in developed countries (this prospect is an important incentive to obtain a good education). The authorities, however, find it much easier to ignore this kind of risks and prefer to build skyscraper sandcastles.

Vasyl Yurchyshyn

Director, Economic Programmes

Born in 1955 in Kamyanets-Podilskyi.


T. Shevchenko Kyiv State University, Department of Cybernetics (1977).

Institute of Public Administration and Local Government at the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine (1994).

Professor in Public Administration. Author of nearly 100 scientific works.


In 1977–1993, worked at the Kyiv University as an engineer, research fellow and senior research fellow;

1994–1999 — head economic researcher at the International Centre for Policy Studies, Fund for Banking and Finance Development;

1999–2004 — Assistant Professor, Department of Economic Policy of the Ukrainian (currently, National) Academy of Public Administration, office of the President of Ukraine;

1999–2004 — Research Director at the Agency of Humanitarian Technologies, later — Agency for Social Analysis;

2002–2003 — advisor to the Minister of Economy of Ukraine;

since April, 2004 — Professor, Department of Economic Policy of the National Academy of Public Administration, office of the President of Ukraine;

since June, 2005 — Economic Programmes Director at Razumkov Centre.

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