Transforming university governance in the context of the Bologna Process: A case study of Ukrainian higher education
Over the last 25 years, Europe’s strategic efforts to retain its significance in higher education have resulted in the Bologna Process – the largest and most influential initiative affecting the higher education systems of 49 countries, including Ukraine. Despite extensive research on Ukrainian educational reforms in the context of the Bologna Process, the university governance transformation has received little attention in the relevant literature and minimal empirical support. This study sought a comprehensive understanding of how the Bologna Process influenced the governance of Ukrainian public universities. Ukrainian universities deserve particular attention to their reorganization efforts because their unique positions are determined by specific historical, political, and socio-economic realities in Ukraine. Using a qualitative case study methodology, I investigated how the Bologna Process had transformed university governance in three Ukrainian universities: National Aviation University, Ternopil Volodymyr Hnatiuk National Pedagogical University, and Zhytomyr Ivan Franko State University. I examined challenges to, supports for, and implications of university governance transformation. Through document analysis and individual interviews with senior university administrators, I identified six themes in the collected data: the Bologna Process and its implementation, university autonomy, university collective governance, the increasing role of internationalization, marketization of higher education, and reconceptualizing national identity. The interpretation of these themes allowed me to distinguish decentralizing higher education governance inherited from the Soviet times and responding to European regionalization policies as two directions of university governance reforms. These directions were recognized as attempts to step away from the Soviet inherent governing practices, such as highly centralized educational governance and the Soviet relative isolation from the world, towards more open and democratic policies of the European Higher Education Area. The two contesting influences of Soviet legacies and the Bologna Process caused both the change and inertia of Ukrainian university governance. This study is a timely investigation of Ukrainian university governance transformation, for it advances our understanding of European regionalization and its impact on higher education governance in former socialist countries. The findings from the study are relevant to policy-makers within Ukraine and internationally, as they shed light on Ukrainian public universities’ inner workings, guiding policies, and decision-making processes.
Higher education, Regionalization of higher education, The Bologna Process, University governance, Institutional theory
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)