A reputation for being a bribe-free institution has attracted earnest students who are serious about getting an education.
Studying for a degree from National University Kyiv-Mohyla Academy usefully takes four years, but the benefits last a lifetime.
Consistently ranked as one of the top universities in Ukraine – and with a rare reputation as an incorruptible administration and faculty – students and alumni form a bond that lasts long after the formal lessons.
Students at “Mohylyanka,” as we call it, are a tight-knit group. Only 3,500 students study here and, unlike in most universities, students take a minor subject alongside their major. That means there is inter-departmental instruction and more interaction among students. Kyiv-Mohyla students, therefore, end up mixing with and knowing many of their fellow students – at least by face, if not by name.
The education system, developed 18 years ago by Honorary President Vyacheslav Brykhovetsky, also allow students to move on to any master’s course they choose (although lawyers, physicists and chemists require specialization).
The experience is so enjoyable that some alumni continue to hang out at student bars and cafes, and show up for outings and the annual graduation ceremonies.
A woman places a "bribe" in a box in front of mannequins dressed as a teacher, a judge, a police officer and a doctor during a protest in Crimea dedicated to an international day against corruption on Dec. 8, 2009. (UNIAN)
Kyiv-Mohyla is also a rare example of a university where there is no widespread culture of bribe-taking. Elsewhere, students typically give bribes starting with chocolates and ending up at hard cash to enroll in courses and ensure that they pass.
We’re not going to lie. While studying, we thought about paying professors for the grades. We even thought about it more than once. The only problem was that, during the four years of our bachelor studies, we didn’t find out whom to pay. No one did. The same has always been the case with the admissions procedure.
Unfortunately for cheaters, everything was clean and transparent.
Those who subsequently switch to a different university for a master’s program feel the difference.
A former student of Kyiv-Mohyla’s economics department decided to apply for the financial master’s program at Vadym Getman Kyiv National Economic University.
Despite receiving a full-ride state scholarship to study, she had to pay $100 to an acquaintance who knew someone on the admissions board. Then she was told to pay an additional Hr 13,000, almost the cost of self-funded study.
“I am pretty sure that no one got in without connections or money. The entrance test evaluation was murky: All those who got in received exactly 70 points; those who didn’t scored exactly 50 points,” said the student, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she admitted to giving a bribe.
In public, the professors decline flowers and chocolate. But those who want to get a good grade dishonestly can find a way, the student said.
“A student representative, who had studied for their bachelor’s there, collected all the students’ report cards,” the student said. “Those who wanted a satisfactory grade were supposed to put $100 inside their report cards. We didn’t even try to inquire about the prices for higher grades.”
As a result, this student said that she bought two grades during the academic year.
Nikolay Vakulenko, the first vice chancellor of the Kyiv National Economic University, would not address the accusations of academic dishonesty.
“For God’s sake! Who am I, a commentator of what?” Valukenko said. “Let her comment. If she said she gave bribes, then it’s her word to comment. Or let the one who took the money comment. I was not the third person in this deal.”
Despite this, Kyiv National Economic University outscored Kyiv-Mohyla in the annual university ranking “Kompas-2010” compiled by the Foundation for Effective Governance, based on the assessments of graduates and potential employers. It took third place with 51 points of 100.
Meanwhile, Mohylyanka took fourth place with 47 points.
The first two spots were taken by National Technical University of Ukraine “Kyiv Polytechnic Institute” (87 points) and Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv (80 points).
This may explain a typical attitude of many Ukrainian students – a preference to skip classes and simply pay bribes, rather than buckle down and hit the books.