Chapter 9. Undue recognition of academic achievement in Ukrainian higher education

This chapter examines undue recognition of academic achievement in higher education. Undue recognition is widespread and it is manifested in over-marking in return for payment and services, marking students based on the work done by other people, assessment in absentia and nepotism.

Teachers and students have clear incentives to engage in over-marking: teachers are reluctant to invest in rigorous and time-consuming assessment because it could jeopardise their routine of holding multiple jobs, while students are keen to benefit from over-marking, and have weak intrinsic motivation to study and low awareness of and attachment to norms of academic integrity. Opportunities for malpractice are facilitated, in part, by opaque assessment principles and by assessment criteria that are not disclosed to students.

The chapter recommends that higher education institutions (HEIs) make their assessment procedures and criteria transparent, and that they introduce an assessment appeals process, the operation of which is subject to review by the higher education quality assurance body. To reduce incentives for malpractice, the chapter recommends revising HEI funding methodology to remove incentives for over-marking.


Regulatory and policy background

Assessment of academic achievement in Ukraine serves two purposes. First, it is used to attest that students have met the requirements for an academic degree at the end of the study cycle. Second, it is used to track and assess progress in the disciplines included in their individual study plans, for formative and summative purposes.

The attestation for the award of academic credentials is regulated on the level of primary and secondary legislation. The continuous and end-of-term assessment of academic achievement is regulated on the level of HEIs as part of their internal quality assurance systems, but follows common principles introduced in the course of Bologna Process and European Higher Education Area (EHEA) reforms. These are summarised in a set of methodological recommendations by the MoES.

The regulations on how to attest student knowledge contain instructions on both the process and format of examinations. The recommendations on continuous and end-of-term assessment of achievement are limited mainly to suggestions on the use of marking scales and the accumulation of points for the final, end-of-term mark. Both assessment contexts are outlined below.

Attestation of students for end-of-cycle credentials (diplomas)

The Law on Higher Education establishes five types of academic credentials: junior bachelor’s diploma; bachelor’s diploma; master’s diploma; PhD diploma; and Doctor of Sciences diploma. The attestation requirements for each depend on the state higher education standards for the respective discipline. The standards also stipulate the number of credits and provide a description of the study content in the form of learning outcomes.

The law also establishes a principle of publicity, binding for attestations at all levels in disciplines. This means that the defence must be public and that audio and video recordings are permitted. The attestation is carried out by an examination board according to rules approved by the Academic Council of the institution.

The attestation commonly takes place in the form of a written dissertation and oral defence. Instead of defence, the attestation for master’s diplomas can also be organised in the form of a single state qualification examination. For PhD diploma, the attestation is always carried out by an Academic Council in the higher education institution. PhD candidates have the right to select their Academic Council.

Continuous and end-of-term assessment of achievement

The results of continuous and end-of-term assessment of academic achievement matter for the academic career of students in different ways. All diplomas, be they bachelor, master or PhD, are provided with a Diploma Supplement, which lists end-of-term marks of the diploma holders in all courses they attended. The supplement also lists the courses and the number of European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) credits attained. The marks from the continuous assessment are recorded as well and contribute to the end-of-term mark. End-of-year marks matter also for the accumulation of credits and progression towards the attestation.

The end-of-year marks depend on the results of continuous assessment throughout the academic year and on end-of-year exams, which can come in different forms, depending on the course. HEIs are free to design a curriculum for each of their programmes and the scope and credits of each course, the sequence in which courses are delivered and the form of delivery, i.e. lectures, practical seminars, laboratory and individual lessons, practical exercises, consultations, independent tasks, etc., the schedule of studies, and forms of formative and summative assessment for each.

Despite the potential for a diversity of assessment forms and approaches, students and administrators of the HEIs visited by the integrity review team suggested that faculties in general adhere to the credit-modular system piloted in 2004 and recommended by the MoES in 2010, which follows the Bologna Process and European Higher Education Area (EHEA) principles and recommendations. The exams come in written form (tests, written assignments) and oral form (usually one-on-one), the choice of which depends on the predominant format of the course (lecture, seminar, individual or group work class, lab exercise, consultation, etc.).

Whatever the format of assessment chosen, the MoES guidance stresses that students should be informed in advance about the learning objectives and assessment requirements. In addition, the recommendation is to use an extended scale of assessment with the marks “excellent”, “very good”, “good”, “satisfactory”, “acceptable”, the negative evaluation is “unsatisfactory”, and “not acceptable”, apply it in all assessment settings, and record the results in the student books and all other academic records. HEIs should consider defining their marking systems in a policy document. This document should describe how the marking scale corresponds to the points-based scale of the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS), and the maximum and minimum scores for each course element that is assessed (e.g. maximum score of 100 points for the core part of the course and 20 additional points for meeting optional requirements) (Table 9.1).

Table 9.1. Example No. 1 of matching marking systems

Points range on the cumulative marking scale

Mark correspondence on the enhanced marking scale

90 and above



very good










not acceptable

Source: Recommendation of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine No. 1-9/119 of 26 February 2010.

Because a 5-point marking scale is used by the MoES to establish student scholarship awards, ministry guidance recommends that HEIs outline how the marking system translates into a 5-mark scale (Table 9.2).

Table 9.2. Example No. 2 of matching marking systems

Evaluation of enhanced scale

Equivalent estimates for the five-point scale



very good










not acceptable


Source: Recommendation of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine No. 1-9/119 of 26 February 2010.

A. Description of integrity risk and violation

Undue recognition occurs when an assessor knowingly gives a student higher marks than their work merits, or where the recognition due to a deserving student is knowingly withheld, in the expectation of personal gain.

Recognition of merit-based achievement is a cornerstone of trust in education – trust in the quality of its graduation credentials, and in its ability to foster excellence, preserve equity and safeguard the integrity of its staff (Milovanovitch et al., 2015). Students and their families expect to see good learning rewarded with good marks, poorer outcomes reflected in lower marks. Potential employers need to be sure that an applicant with a graduation certificate really has all the knowledge and skills that their course programme claims to have given them. HEIs need to believe in the quality of the credentials presented by graduates of other HEIs applying for academic posts or to enter higher degrees. The international reputation of Ukraine’s higher education system depends on overseas counterparts being able to believe in the quality of Ukrainian higher education degrees. The faith and trust of all these stakeholders is at risk if assessment of learning and academic achievement is not based on merit.

Marks in return for payments, services and favours

The most common source of risk to evaluation results in Ukraine is payments in exchange for marks, whether on assignments, papers, or theses and dissertations.

A Ukrainian civil society portal,, provides the information on 33 reported violations (as of 18 August 2016) during examinations in higher education that occurred in 2015 and 2016 (, 2016). All cases reported on this portal are verified against official records such as announcements and decisions of law enforcement bodies. These data seem to reflect only a small portion of the total scope of the problem. A recent study of the academic culture in Ukraine concludes that bribed or unfair evaluation potentially affects as many as half of all HEI students and teachers in the country (Figure 9.1).

Through interviews, focus groups and the collection of written accounts during the site visits, the integrity review team collected accounts of bribed evaluation of academic achievement. They confirm survey findings and point towards a professional environment in which manipulation of evaluation results is a common practice (Box 9.1).

Box 9.1. Examples of bribed academic evaluation in Ukraine

At many HEIs a standard scale of payments operates for particular classes or across the whole HEI (e.g. a fixed amount for a C, double that amount for a B, triple that amount for an A). Some HEIs request payments in USD or EUR. At one HEI, the most expensive exam to pass is Criminal Law (USD 800). Payment scales may be covert (not written down anywhere, but communicated to all students by teachers or other students) or overt. At three national HEIs in Kyiv, price lists for marks, written papers and absence from studies can be found posted on the door of the Dean’s office.

Lecturers at Kyiv-Mohyla, which enjoys a reputation of educational integrity, described how colleagues from other HEIs could not believe that payment for marks was unknown there and made persistent efforts to discover the payments required to pass courses.

At some HEIs, teachers ask students to pay their fee for the exam in the form of gifts, sometimes very expensive ones. This ensures that teachers are not seen to accept money directly.

At another HEI, subject teachers were told exactly what marks to give each student, which strongly suggests that administrators had taken bribes to ensure good marks for some or all.

Payment for marks is particularly likely to occur in the case of distance learners, a little-researched group who cannot be made subject to attendance checks.

Refusal to pay bribes can extend the time it takes to obtain a PhD from 3-4 years to 10-15 years.

Doctoral students must present gifts to secure a research supervisor. The supervisor then expects other favours of the student, such as writing scholarly articles to be published in the supervisor’s name. The student’s HEI typically expects them to provide various unpaid services, such as delivering lectures and seminars as cover for absent teachers, translating and interpreting. PhD theses must be put to a preliminary defence where a student presents the results of his/her findings and answers questions from other researchers: the student is expected to offer and pay for a buffet reception afterwards. After the preliminary defence the corrected paper is given to three experts, professors in the field of study. It is expected that the paper will be accompanied by gifts, to secure favourable reviews from the experts. Then PhD students must secure a date for their defence from the appropriate Research Council; to save themselves a very long wait for a date, students are advised to present a gift to the head of the Research Council. Then two opponents must be found for the defence. If the only suitable opponents are from out of town, the PhD student must pay for their travel and hotel bills and evening entertainment. All opponents expect the traditional ‘money in an envelope’ and a no-expense-spared festive dinner afterwards.

A Ukrainian PhD student writing in Politico magazine described how she had to place USD 200 inside the pages of her doctoral dissertation to induce her professor to acknowledge that her work was good; one friend had to pay USD 300 to pass her junior year exam; and another friend had felt obliged to pay USD 50 for every mark received.

Source: Examples from witness or focus groups interviewed by the OECD integrity review team during field work or written contributions; Mendel, I. (2016), “In Ukraine’s universities, trading bribes for diplomas”, Politico,

Students are often the initiators in the exchange of benefits for marks. More than half of the 445 students (55%) and 41 teachers (51%) in the 2015 survey on academic culture in Ukraine pointed out that the initiative to bribe comes from the students (Table 9.3).

Figure 9.1. Students’ and teachers’ answers to the question: “Are there any cases of bribed evaluation in your department?”

Source: IED (2015), Академічна культура українського студентства: основні чинники формування та розвитку [Academic Culture of Ukrainian Student Community: Primary Factors of Formation and Development],

Table 9.3. Breakdown of answers to the question of who initiated the evaluation bribe

Response option

Share of students who selected the answer (%)

Share of teachers who selected the answer (%)

Mostly students



Sometimes students, sometimes teachers



Mostly teachers



Source: IED (2015), Академічна культура українського студентства: основні чинники формування та розвитку [Academic Culture of Ukrainian Student Community: Primary Factors of Formation and Development],

In some situations, payments are extorted by withholding due recognition for (possibly) genuine student achievements. Serhiy Kvit, Rector of Kyiv-Mohyla University, has observed, “Previously, bribes were mainly paid to get applicants enrolled at universities; now they are paid to ensure students stay there. Passing a test costs on average UAH 50 and the successful defence of coursework costs UAH 2 000 (USD 245 at the exchange rate on that day)” (Kvit, 2013).

This form of corruption, where all students must make the same payment to take a necessary step towards their degree, arises at the HEI’s or the teacher’s initiative. It is unlawful unless mandated in national law or the HEI’s own published statutes (at the time of this review there were no such provisions). It is an instance of due recognition withheld, because students will not pass unless they pay, however deserving they may be. The deserving student who does not pay will fail the exam and be expelled, while a far less deserving student with less knowledge, or who has made little effort to acquire knowledge, will pass the exam and stay at the HEI.

Money is not the only form of “payment” for favourable evaluation of academic achievement. Teachers also accept gifts, useful services or other benefits from their students. For instance, students might be expected to purchase the teacher’s books and CDs or attend additional classes (for which the teacher is paid extra) to get a mark. The pretext for the latter form of “payment” is that the teacher cannot deliver all the information during lectures, so extra fees need to be paid to gain the necessary knowledge. Also, marks are announced to students during the special paid classes; at the regular classes, marks are not disclosed.

A 2015 student survey confirmed this: 29% of students said that they personally had given presents to teachers, and 22% had provided services to teachers or bought educational materials and books offered to them by teachers (Sydorchuk, 2015). The services and favours can include: building their teacher a garage, replacing failing parts of the teacher’s car, buying sports and laboratory equipment, buying materials to repair or redecorate HEI premises (paints, linoleum, skirting boards, etc.) and bringing in stationary that their department lacks, such as office paper (IED, 2015).

Marks obtained through acceptance of false authorship

As noted in Chapter 8, false authorship is the practice of ascribing authorship which is not deserved. Between one-fifth and one-third of students buy reports, term papers or graduation theses from others and present them to the teacher as their own work. This is undoubtedly an integrity violation – cheating and plagiarism – on the part of students concerned. It is also undue recognition of achievement if the teacher knows that the work has been bought and gives the student a good mark nevertheless. By failing to carry out simple basic checks – such as comparisons with the student’s previous work – that would reveal whether the work has been bought, the teacher becomes an accomplice who knowingly inflates the achievement of the student.

There is no systematic evidence on the frequency with which teachers know that papers have been bought and yet mark them at face value. In some circumstances teacher complicity is obvious, for instance when teachers encourage students to buy theses or exam papers that they themselves have written – a frequent practice, the team was told in site visits. Students also report that teachers offer – for a fee – to provide them with papers written by someone else, and which they promise to award high marks.

False authorship as a form of student cheating – and teachers’ apparent willingness to ignore it – is particularly common in certain disciplines. The percentage of students who said that their papers submitted for marking were always or usually their own efforts was 77% in medicine; between 60% and 70% in natural, economic and social sciences; between 50% and 60% in humanitarian and technical sciences; but less than 50% in transport, pedagogy, agriculture, law and construction (the lowest at 35%) (IED, 2015). The 48% in pedagogy and 47% in law are particularly concerning, as both are professions where integrity and subject knowledge are vital.

Assessment in absentia

Some students, known as absentee or “ghost” students, receive marks for papers they did not present or courses they did not attend, typically as the result of bribery or nepotism. Systematic evidence from survey or administrative tools was not available to the review team. Those with whom the team met in site visits provided these examples:

  • Teachers are given lists of names by the dean of their department, and are told that the students on the list must be given the best marks, even if they never attend classes or present papers.

  • Students do not attend classes during semesters but come only for the examination, and still obtain minimum passing marks.

  • Students attend for a short while after enrolment but then “complete” their courses by paying rather than attending.

  • Students nominally attending one HEI full-time are actually part-time attenders at two HEIs, both of which will give them degrees.

  • Absentee students have jobs elsewhere or run their own businesses.

Influence peddling for better marks

Influence peddling describes a situation where a person misuses his/her influence over a decision-making process to the benefit of a third party, in return for loyalty, money or any other material or immaterial undue advantage (Council of Europe, 1999; AALEP, 2015). Students in Ukraine may benefit from their affiliation with an important HEI administrator or local education official and receive more recognition than they deserve (high marks for poor work, diplomas despite non-attendance). This is for instance common with children of families, the members of which work in the same educational institution (“teacher dynasties”). As a student representative during the site visits noted, “Of course, if it is the son of my colleague, I am not going to give him a hard time”.

B. Factors that create opportunities for the violation

Inadequate assessment and quality assurance systems

The practices described in this chapter arise, in part, from three connected shortcomings: lack of adequate criteria for assessing student knowledge and academic achievement, lack of transparency regarding assessment results and deficient internal quality assurance mechanisms.

Ensuring due recognition of academic achievement is based on transparent principles for assessing student performance that are consistent across higher education institutions, that all higher education students understand, and that are fairly and consistently applied. In higher education in Ukraine, a common marking scale is in use, but there are not common assessment principles, assessment criteria or assessment guidance to help higher education instructors judge what mark is appropriate in a given situation.

Students and instructors acknowledge that assessment is not highly reliable. About one-third of teachers and two-thirds of students indicate that marks do not reflect or only partially reflect the “actual knowledge” of students.

Marks and marking criteria do not have to be disclosed to students. Marks are infrequently explained to students or discussed with them, according to students with whom the integrity review team met. Some HEIs allow students to teach classes in the teacher’s absence and to mark the work of fellow students. For higher degrees, marking is even more unstructured and potentially arbitrary: the review team was informed, for example, that there are no standard requirements for master’s theses.

HEI procedures for student appeals against mismarking are generally inadequate, sometimes completely absent. Where appeals are allowed, the chances of a successful appeal are extremely low, because the assessment and quality criteria are not disclosed to students. In a 2011 study on the monitoring of education quality in Ukraine, only 6 of 110 HEIs reported that they made data available providing information about marking criteria and other information that students can use to evaluate the quality of the programmes they offer (Babin et al., 2011). Where information about assessment criteria, rules and procedures exists, it is not made public (Tutko and Naumov, 2014). With no disclosure of assessment criteria, no duty to disclose and justify marks to the students concerned, and no meaningful appeal system, higher education teachers in Ukraine are free to give students any mark they choose, creating an environment that is open to abuse.

Figure 9.2. Teachers’ and students’ perceptions of the reliability of assessment results in their HEI departments
Question: “Does it happen that the students’ marks do not reflect their actual knowledge? Sometimes a student with good knowledge may get a bad mark and vice versa. To what extent, in your opinion, do the evaluation results of students in your department correspond with their actual knowledge?”

Source: IED (2015), Академічна культура українського студентства: основні чинники формування та розвитку [Academic Culture of Ukrainian Student Community: Primary Factors of Formation and Development],

Adopting and implementing quality assurance standards could yield improvements in the assessment practices that higher education institutions in Ukraine follow. The 2014 Law on Higher Education envisaged the establishment of a dual system of internal and external quality assurance, according to which responsibility for quality would be shared between HEIs and the new National Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (NAQA) that will take over the functions of the Accreditation Commission (British Council, 2015). This intention is in line with the recommendations of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) on student-centred learning, teaching and assessment, which are followed throughout the European Union (Box 9.2), and which the NAQA is expected to adopt.

If implemented, assessment criteria and procedures would be part of the quality assurance cycle within institutions, and these would in turn be subject to external scrutiny - by the NAQA, the public and students themselves. However, Ukraine is far from meeting these standards and guidelines. At the time of this assessment, the NAQA was not yet operational, and higher education institutions had signalled their disagreement with some of these provisions (British Council, 2015). As occasionally reported during the site visits for this assessment, HEIs were concerned about the loss of institutional autonomy.

Box 9.2. Guidelines of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education on student-centred learning, teaching and assessment

The ENQA guidelines require that:

  1. – The criteria for and method of assessment as well as criteria for marking are published in advance.

  2. – The assessment allows students to demonstrate the extent to which the intended learning outcomes have been achieved.

  3. – Students are given feedback which, if necessary, is linked to advice on the learning process.

  4. – Where possible, assessment is carried out by more than one examiner.

  5. – The regulations for assessment take into account mitigating circumstances.

  6. – Assessment is consistent, fairly applied to all students and carried out in accordance with the stated procedures.

  7. – A formal procedure for student appeals is in place.

Source: ENQA (2009), Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area,

Student fees and the cost of failure

The power to influence academic results is not only about certifying the aptitude and knowledge of examinees. Assessment results can also have serious financial implications for the students and their families, because they are a key determinant of study costs. Students who fail below a certain grade average might lose their state-funded study place and fall into the category of fee-paying students. Or, if they do not lose their place, they may be forced to move to a new HEI or speciality to keep their support. Furthermore, students who do not have a state-funded place but who wish to reach the threshold of success required to change from a fee-based to a budget place are also strongly incentivised to comply with requests for financial or in-kind exchanges in return for favourable marks. Survey data shows that 41% of respondents reported the primary reason for taking an exam is to secure public financial support or avoid being expelled (IED, 2015).

Poor attendance control

Some of the most extreme cases of undue recognition of academic achievement concern absentee or “ghost” students. It is the law in Ukraine that students whose attendance falls below certain limits must be expelled and not allowed to take their degrees. However, the integrity review team was advised that there is no general, universal system of recording and monitoring attendance at Ukrainian HEIs; some HEIs had no attendance controls at all until very recently, which enabled “ghosts” to be absent without their absence being noticed. The MoES intends to request higher education institutions to tighten up attendance controls in the course of improving their quality assurance arrangements; if done effectively, this particular loophole should be closed.

Toleration of degree-buying by distance learning/extramural students

The integrity review team identified no national rules or controls in place which would require distance learning students to show evidence of studying or achieving a certain standard of learning before receiving their degrees and diplomas. Students enrolled in conventional study programmes expressed to the integrity review team resentment of the ease with which these students obtain degrees even where institutional rules exist, typically by paying in advance for a certain number of online classes which they need not complete, and/or filing an exam paper or thesis which they may not have written themselves.

“Everyone’s doing it”

One of the questions in the surveys quoted in this chapter was what specifically motivated students to “buy” marks. More than 1 in 5 students (21.7%) gave as their reason or one of their reasons “everyone does it, why should I be different?”. This can be a very powerful factor, particularly when the student is also under pressure from a teacher to do what “everyone does”; one in five students gave as their reason or one of their reasons “a teacher implies the importance of giving a bribe”.

There seems to be an entrenched culture of corruption in many, probably the great majority, of Ukraine HEIs and, once such a culture takes root, it becomes increasingly difficult for individuals, whether students or teachers, to stand out against it. Added complications are that anyone using the argument “everyone’s doing it” to persuade others to join the corrupt fraternity has an interest in exaggerating the numbers already in it; and anyone uncertain how true it is that “everyone’s doing it” cannot find out, because those already acting corruptly are bound to deny that they are acting corruptly.

C. Factors that create incentives for the violation

The impact of low pay, multiple jobs and time constraints

Those who teach in Ukrainian higher education are paid, on average, much less than workers with a tertiary education employed in other sectors of the nation’s economy, and less, on average, than tertiary instructors in OECD member countries. In terms of statutory pay, HEI staff in Ukraine are slightly better off than teaching staff in pre-tertiary education. The starting salary in higher education is about 1.3 times higher than that of a mid-career schoolteacher, and at the top of the salary scale, earnings are 1.2 times higher than at the beginning of the academic career (Table 9.4). However, these salaries are still considerably less than those of full-time, full-year workers with tertiary education who are employed outside of higher education. Newcomers to academia earn just 40% of the average pay in the finance and insurance sector, half of the average monthly earnings of professionals in scientific and technical professions, and 30% less than civil servants. Even at the top of their statutory pay scale, academic workers still earn less than any of the professional categories included in Table 9.4 and bring home less than the average income of a typical Ukrainian household in 2015.

Unlike teachers in schools and pre-schools, HEI staff does not have the option of compensation payments for additional activities. As already discussed, a combination of such payments can boost income substantially. The only alternative to raise their standard of living is to supplement the base salary with secondary jobs that might include, for example, fee-based expertise provision, private tutoring, authoring of textbooks, curating and editing of publications, fundraising and affiliation with non-governmental organisations.

There is no data on the extent of multiple jobholding in Ukrainian HEIs. However, all academic staff that the integrity review team met during the site visits was involved in secondary, income-generating activities, in many cases in addition to holding multiple positions in their own departments. One striking example was a senior lecturer in one of the regions visited by the review team who was in charge of research, lecturing and administration in her home HEI – and also teaching in another higher education institution, giving private classes, working on a textbook, and assessing textbook proposals for a publishing house.

Table 9.4. Ratios of starting and top salaries with additional compensations of teachers in tertiary education to earnings for full-time, full-year workers with tertiary education in Ukraine (2016)


UAH (current prices)

Ratio of mid-career salary of teachers to other salaries in education

Ratio of starting salary in tertiary education to other salaries in education

Ratio of top salary in tertiary education to other salaries in education

Monthly income in the education sector:

Salary of mid-career teachers (1)

2 334




Starting salary in tertiary education (2)

3 057




Top of the scale salary in tertiary education (3)

4 313




Average monthly income of workers with tertiary education in (4):

UAH (current prices)

Ratio of mid-career salary of teachers to salaries in selected sectors

Ratio of starting salary in tertiary education to salaries in selected sectors

Ratio of top salary in tertiary education to salaries in selected sectors

Finance and insurance

9 858




Professional, scientific and technical professions

7 291




Civil service, including defence

5 134





5 524




Average for selected sectors

8 575




Average household income in 2015

5 232




1. Professional category 1 or 15 years of experience.

2. Remuneration category 15.

3. Remuneration category 20.

4. Data for the period January-June 2016.

Source: Calculations based on SSSU (2014), Household Income Data,; The provisions in the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 102 of 15 April 1993, with amendments; Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 1298 of 30 August 2002; Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 373 of 23 March 2011; Decree of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine No. 557 of 26 September 2005, with amendment No. 991 of 17 August 2016.

The practice of multiple jobholding seems so widespread, that the additional revenue that it generates might have become something of a “compensating wage differential” - the additional amount of income that makes a job attractive despite disadvantages (Kaufman and Hotchkiss, 2005), such as low base salary and the uncertainty of time-bound contracts (1 to 7 years). Some interviews with new members of HEI staff during the site visits suggest that, in taking a decision to apply to a vacancy at a HEI and accept a subsequent job offer, young graduates are aware of their earnings outlook and, in advance of taking a decision, factor in the prospect of improving their situation through secondary jobs. One consequence of this is that academics are notoriously short of time. Multiple jobholding provides supplementary income and perhaps the sense of personal fulfilment, but it is highly time-consuming, and can present employees with conflicting demands between different jobs (ILO, 2004) and Box 9.3.

The shortage of time caused by multitasking affects the ability of HEI staff in Ukraine to meet some of their professional obligations, especially the proper preparation of lectures; keeping the content of lectures up-to-date in line with developments in their respective field; and providing consultations to students. Students during the site visits reported how their teachers often read pre-recorded lectures, the content of which has been the same for years, as visible in the notes of previous generations of students that are now used as scripts for exam preparations. This is not surprising. Beyond the initial effort of preparing them once, pre-recorded lectures do not require preparation by teachers and can be delivered by anyone - an assistant or even a student, freeing up time for other, income-generating activities.

Box 9.3. Multiple jobholding in Eastern European HEIs

In most Eastern European countries reviewed in the course of a 2008 OECD study of tertiary education (Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland and the Russian Federation), multiple jobholding was an important issue. Academics in these countries were found to often hold a position in more than one tertiary education institution in order to compensate for low salary levels. Typically, academics were employed full time at a public institution and hold a part-time, contractual position at one or more (often private) institutions. The case of Poland, for instance, was found to raise a number of issues, many of which are common to other Eastern European countries. While the possibility of multiple jobholding has helped to avoid a mass exodus from academia in search of higher salaries during the 1990s and has facilitated rapid expansion of the private tertiary education sector, there were also considerable drawbacks. Multiple jobholding had negative implications for teaching and research quality: teaching was likely to be done in repetitive ways, while research activities risked being superficial.

Source: Kwiek, M. (2003), “Academe in transition: Transformations in the Polish academic profession”,; OECD (2008), Tertiary Education for the Knowledge Society: Volume 2,

The lack of time due to multiple jobs also affects the assessment of knowledge communicated in lectures and otherwise. Good assessment/exam sessions require time for preparation, administration and verification of results. Giving low marks and even allowing students to fail might create a need for additional rounds of exam sessions, for additional support and lecturing, and maybe even the preparation of new questions and exam materials - all of which take time. Over-marking is an effective insurance against that happening.

Policy incentives to over- or under-mark

On site visits the integrity review team heard from a HEI that the MoES requires HEI teachers to assess the work of students in their class in accordance with an enforced marking distribution, which limits the proportion of students who can get high marks in any one exam. If more students than the permitted percentage do well, then some have to be marked lower than they deserve. Further exploration established that there are a number of restrictions or pressures on HE teacher marking. Some are national while some arise from internal HEI instructions. Some push marks up, some push marks down, and some do both.

Restrictions or perceived restrictions at national level include:

  • Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 882 of 12 July 2004. This decree links awards and increases of state-funded scholarships, or stipends, to achievement of specified marks (the specified marks have been amended several times since 2004). In practice, it tends to cause under-marking, because HEIs need scholarship funds big enough to pay for all scholarships: the ministry, as budget provider, and HEI rectors, facing regular budget shortfalls, have a shared interest in limiting the calls on scholarship funds. The provisions of this decree could also facilitate withheld or undeserved recognition of academic achievement by cash-strapped and unscrupulous teachers, or those under pressure from cash-strapped and unscrupulous HEIs. An “unfavoured” student – such as one who will not pay to keep their state scholarship – could be deprived of it by the under-marking of their work, while a favoured student – such as one who will pay - could be over-marked and take up the scholarship place withdrawn from the unfavoured student.

  • Letter from MoES No. 1/9-119 of 26 February 2010. This advises HEIs to follow a normal marking distribution, as set out in an illustrative marking table in an early version of the ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) User Guide. However, the recommendation has no regulatory force; it was probably not approved due to the change of Ukrainian government in 2010; and later versions of the ECTS User Guide pulled back from suggesting that a normal marking distribution was a pre-condition for international credit transfer. In practice, this recommendation – if assumed to be binding - could cause teachers to adjust student marks either up or down, depending on how many good or weak performers are in their class.

  • MoES Order No. 689 of 13 June 2012. The effect of this order is to make accreditation of HEI curricula depend on at least 50% of students getting good or excellent marks and at least 90% of students getting positive marks in their tests. Its intention is to ensure education quality. Its practical effect is to encourage teachers to over-mark some students if marking puts the HEI at risk of not reaching the accreditation threshold.

  • Under present regulations, government funding for HEIs assumes a minimum student-teacher ratio of 12:1. If the ratio falls below this, funding is withdrawn. Because of this, in many HEIs, teachers are instructed, recommended or warned to avoid marking students so low that they will have to be expelled. The result is undeserved recognition of achievement.

Restrictions or pressures at HEI level vary, but the examples recorded in the course of desk research and site visits for this review are as follows:

  • Some HEIs regard their state-funded students as too financially important to be allowed to fail their exams and leave. If they do, those students’ places will be cut on the occasion of the HEI’s next accreditation, unless alternative students can be brought in to fill their state-funded places – which is easier for some HEIs than others. At some institutions, students with state-funded places can get away with doing no work, if they pay for all the exams. Result: undeserved recognition.

  • Some HEIs regard their fee-paying students, also known as “contract students”, as too financially important to be allowed to fail their exams and leave. Contract students are particularly valuable to a HEI’s finances if they are studying in prestigious disciplines such as law and economics; these students can be charged more than their full costs so as to cross-subsidise less prestigious but important higher-cost disciplines like physics and chemistry. Result: undeserved recognition.

  • Foreign students are also very important to the finances of some HEIs. Evidence from site visits suggests that they often pay as much in USD as Ukrainian students pay in UAH. HEIs fortunate enough to have recruited them will try very hard to avoid requiring them to leave. Result: undeserved recognition.

  • A final reason why teachers at public HEIs may be reluctant to fail students who deserve to be failed, is that the teachers are then obliged to offer retake exams and prepare the students for them, and the time they spend on retakes is unpaid. Result: undeserved recognition. At private HEIs, the opposite may apply. The private HEI cited above which offers fee discounts for excellent student performance allows students who fail end-of-year exams to retake them, provided they pay the full cost involved.

D. Policy options

Closing the opportunities for malpractice

Ensure transparency in marking and opportunities for appeal

The 2014 Law on Higher Education states that the functions of the NAQA should include ensuring that publicly available criteria are in place for decision-making in line with quality assurance standards and guidelines recognised for the European Higher Education Area. Annex B of the 2014 law sets out the ENQA guidelines on student-centred learning, teaching and assessment. Action should now be taken to implement them, as follows.

First, every HEI should be required to publish the desired learning outcomes and success criteria for every year or semester of every programme it offers. Desired learning outcomes should be expressed in terms of what students must know and be able to do. Success criteria should enable teachers to judge whether, and to what extent, learning outcomes have been achieved; and they should be clear and comprehensive.

Second, for every year or semester of every programme it offers, every HEI should be required to publish the marking criteria it uses. These criteria should of course relate to the desired learning outcomes and success criteria of the programme. Students need to be able to read these marking criteria and understand exactly what they have to do to earn each higher mark on the marking scale. The marking criteria should also show clearly where the borderline lays between learning enough to remain on the course, and learning so little that the student deserves expulsion. This will provide clarity for students on how they will be marked and establish a basis for challenging unfair marking.

Third, teachers should routinely disclose and explain to students any mark awarded to them in any assessment and consider arguments students present in favour of a different mark. Students who remain dissatisfied should have a formal right of appeal to the HEI’s central Quality Monitoring Unit.

Finally, attention must be given to students receiving undeserved high marks as a consequence of corrupt payments, favours or relationships. One way to deal with over-marking is to provide an independent and confidential channel for students to “blow the whistle” where they have evidence that unmerited marks have been awarded, for example where high marks are awarded to students who have not attended class or who have purchased their exam paper. This channel can exist within the campus and should be monitored by an external body, such as an ombudsman.

Ensure that a robust quality assurance body makes undue recognition a priority

When a robust higher education quality assurance body is in operation (i.e. the NAQA), its assessment of higher education institutions should look for the following signs of poor quality potentially related to undue recognition of academic achievement:

  1. inadequate arrangements for student assessment (see the first recommendation in this section)

  2. unresolved or unsatisfactorily resolved student-teacher disagreements over marks

  3. absentee students: assessors could check HEI attendance records and raise queries where students have passed exams or received degrees without the required level of attendance

  4. extramural (distance learning) students awarded marks inconsistent with their recorded input

  5. cheating and plagiarism which, though obvious, has not been penalised or detected

  6. exam papers or theses which appear to have been prepared externally or mismarked

  7. close relationships between HEI personnel and students which may have affected marks

  8. insufficient feedback to students, failures to involve student representatives or inattention to student complaints.

This agency should validate internal processes that higher education institutions use for marking, including mechanisms to ensure the integrity of marking.

The reports of HEIs and programmes should be made publicly available. HEI management and teachers should have the right to comment on the reports in draft and identify errors, but neither HEIs nor members of the NAQA ruling body should have the right to suppress findings or prevent publication.

Eliminating the incentives for malpractice

Remove policy incentives to over- or under-mark

Some government policies implemented in the preceding decade are no longer needed and are widely regarded by stakeholders as constraining the marks that can be given to students. None of those policies are needed at present, and this report recommends their elimination. Specifically, the integrity review team recommends that: 1) the 2004 Decree; 2) the 2010 MoES letter; and 3) the 2012 MoES Order be rescinded.

  • The 2004 Decree linking state-funded scholarships to achievement of specified marks is now largely irrelevant. From 2015, Ukraine’s Centre for Education Quality Assessment (CEQA) allocates state-funded places to the HEI applicants with the best EIT results. It is assumed that the CEQA also decides which students, of those allocated state-funded places, are in the top 75% and should get scholarships (stipends) as well as have their fees paid by the state. This will eliminate the need for HEIs to make or re-make decisions for the award of public scholarships based on grade point averages while students are at HEI. HEI marks are much less valid and reliable, and much more open to manipulation, than CEQA judgements based on EIT results. Those students awarded state scholarships on merit when they start HEI should expect to keep them throughout their courses, unless their performance falls below a certain threshold (which would be for the MoES to define). Moreover, the decree is incompatible with Article 62.4 of the 2014 Law on Higher Education, which makes no reference to marks, simply stating: “The size of the scholarship fund of a higher educational institution should provide for payment of academic scholarships to at least two thirds and not more than 75% of full-time state funded students […] without taking into consideration persons receiving bursaries”.

  • The 2012 MoES Order has not performed its function of ensuring education quality. The proportion of students getting high marks could only provide evidence of quality if the marks were based upon consistent, objective, and verifiable assessment standards. They are not. Instead, the order has the effect of encouraging over-marking in selected programmes and institutions.

  • It would be helpful, in addition, to modify: 1) regulations that orient HEI funding only on student numbers, which in turn discourages teachers from expelling students who clearly deserve to be expelled, and 2) the regulations that deny extra pay to teachers who prepare students to retake exams they have failed. In 2016, the MoES presented a funding model for higher education that proposed that resource allocations take into consideration a broader selection of factors, for instance student choice, type and significance of the higher education institution, etc. (MoES, 2016). It is recommended to continue working on this model and pilot its applicability.

  • Finally, the ministry should introduce regulations that help ensure that secondary jobs taken by employees of higher education institutions are consistent with the primary responsibility to the institution, and do not take place at the expense of proper delivery and assessment of knowledge. To be both fair and effective, the regulation of external employment must be linked to improvements in the compensation of academic staff in public higher education institutions.


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ANNEX 9.A1. References of legal sources

Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 882 of 12 July 2004.

Order of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine No. 689 of 13 June 2012.

Recommendation of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine No. 1-9/119 of 26 February 2010.

References cited as sources of tables:

Tables 9.1 and 9.2:

Recommendation of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine No. 1-9/119 of 26 February 2010.

Table 9.4:

The provisions in the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 102 of 15 April 1993, with amendments.

Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 1298 of 30 August 2002.

Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 373 of 23 March 2011.

Decree of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine No. 557 of 26 September 2005, with amendment No. 991 of 17 August 2016.