Business wants in

Despite the fact that Ukrainian HEIs are spewing out tremendous numbers of graduates and so-called specialists, employers are finding it hard to find professionals who match their requirements. Indeed, graduates produced by Ukrainian HEIs largely fail to acquire the skills required by potential employers, making diplomas irrelevant in comparison to previous work experience and, too often, connections or bribes.

One of the leading trends in global higher education in the past decade has been fostering ties between HEIs and business. Indeed, this has developed to the extent that corporations are becoming wary of universities' intellectual property rights. However, the strengthening of intellectual property rights has spurred academic innovation and growth – though some would argue that this has been at the cost of neglecting basic science.

One of the methods that has been successfully used in other countries to develop such ties is to create special activity areas linked up to top institutions. These can take the form of technology parks, science parks or special economic zones. Businesses receive preferential treatment in exchange for supporting HEIs or activities in desired areas, requiring cooperation with HEI. This is also a way of attracting outsourcing, which tends to rely heavily on a region's pool of post-secondary students. This has already started to develop around L'viv and Kharkiv, where Microsoft Ukraine plans to open an Innovation Center together with Kharkiv University in 2010, the second in the country.

Finally, corporate universities are a means of educating a pool of graduate students with specific business-oriented skill sets. However, problems with capturing the full benefits of maintaining such an institution when graduates tend to change employment after initially working for the company means that setting up corporate universities requires public support.

Notably, the lack of cooperation in this field can be largely attributed to the unwillingness of HEIs. Companies regularly complain about the imposition of fees and administrative hurdles, which are often used by HEI governance in order to solicit bribes. Many HEIs charge companies for advertising about employment or internship openings or for hosting career fairs. Overall links between business and a significant portion of HEIs remain characterized by distrust rather than cooperation, leading to deficiencies in human capital supply and hampering the development of applied research.