How to facilitate university-business collaboration in Ukraine?

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University-business cooperation (UBC) is very important for the development of human capital and economic growth in the world. Such cooperation allows to bring education institution and firms closer together which leads to better matching of the skills in the economy, better labor allocation and improved labor productivity.

In order to better understand UBC in Ukraine: how widespread the university-business cooperation is in Ukraine, what types of cooperation are most widespread why it happens in some cases and not in others, what barriers do the businesses and universities face and what is its impact, we have conducted a serier of expert interviews. We have interviewed a total of 15 experts, including 5 representatives of business, 5 representatives of universities and 5 policymakers to find out both their personal experiences of cooperation and their views of the general state of UBC in Ukraine. In addition we have analysed the international experience and theory to compare whether in coincides with the Ukrainian.

There are different levels of the collaboration depending on how deep is the engagement. Actually, even a minor partnership might bring huge benefits to each stakeholder in this relationship: students, professors, university administration, companies, and the whole economy.
Generally, UBC may be subdivided into cooperation in the R&D and cooperation in education. The R&D UBC is more common since the benefits are more evident than from the education UBC. However, education UBC is becoming more popular and is connected mostly to curriculum development of certain courses, enhancing mobility both of students and academics, stimulating lifelong learning and entrepreneurial education.

The incentives for the cooperation for universities include:

  • the need to enhance employability of students by providing first-hand experience;
  • attraction of more (and more talented) students to universities;
  • understanding the importance of the research since the new discoveries, devices or other kinds of novelties can be directly and immediately applied and put into production to help people who need it;
  • access to funding.

 For businesses, important factors are:

  • personal relationships that may facilitate the development of a company in future;
  • the demand for productive employees as the study programs become better suited for market needs and the awareness about the company among students increases;
  • improvement of the corporate image since investment in education is benefitting the whole society.

The factors that usually restrict the cooperation is the lack of connections, lack of funding, cultural differences (the evidence from the experts interviews also supported that it is a crucial factor which may lead to the termination of the cooperation), and internal characteristics such as non-disclosure policies.

UBC is well-developed in Europe, especially in Germany with their dual system of education. This system combines training at the educational institution and at the workplace. Study programs are also developed jointly.
Unfortunately, the dual system is only a tiny part of the Ukrainian education system due to the poorly developed legislative framework and because of the business distrust in Ukrainian education and overall risk-aversion. It has mostly been implemented in the post-secondary non-tertiary education institutions since they mostly focus on STEM specializations.

Overall, various types of cooperation are allowed in Ukraine and are implemented on a regular basis. For example, students have to complete the internship in a company or in government entities of their specialization in order to obtain a degree (although it is frequently just a beurocratic obligation, and real internship or apprenticeship is replaced with a fake certificate of internship). Various laboratories, so-called science parks, conferences, forums, schools or contests can be organized in cooperation with businesses.

Thanks to such cooperation, a lot of students might find their perfect job, receive competitive salaries, get better education. According to the evidence from the interviews, various universities received funding for the research, developed new materials, attracted more students etc. However, the experts that we interviewed complain about the lack of cooperation due to red-tape, lack of motivation from both sides, lack of funding and staff that can implement new projects.

We propose a few recommendations on how the cooperation can be incentivized or improved. Tax credits or deductions can be provided to those businesses that cooperate, provide funding or hire recent graduates; enhancement of financial autonomy can motivate universities to attract funds and improve their performance; deregulation, reduction of bureaucracy, rule of law and property rights protection and other important measures can bring major benefits to such relationships.

The study was conducted under the Leadership Network for Change Collaboration Grant, administrated by Stanford`s Centre on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Low`s, (CDDRL) Leadership Network for Change, sponsored by Luminate Group