Students from other countries may be allowed to study in Ukrainian universities in foreign languages, special programs will be created for them. According to bill 3717, submitted to the Verkhovna Rada, foreign students will also be taught in groups separate from Ukrainian students.
Voting for the draft law has failed at least three times in the parliamentary education committee, and representatives of the academic community and the language ombudsman oppose. The reason is that under the concept of "foreign language" in the draft law they mean the return of Russian to universities, the staff of universities says.
Today, the issue of language in universities is spelled out in Part 5 of Art. 21 of the Law of Ukraine "On ensuring the functioning of the Ukrainian language as the state language". It is stipulated that the language of the educational process is Ukrainian.
But there is also an opportunity to study in foreign languages. In educational institutions, in accordance with the educational program, one or more disciplines can be taught in two or more languages. This refers to English or other official languages of the European Union. Official EU languages: Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Irish (from 1 January 2007, but limited), Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Slovak, Slovenian.
The university may introduce the teaching of most or all disciplines in English, provided that all applicants for education studying these disciplines are fluent in English.
Part 2 of Art. 21 states that educational institutions provide a compulsory study of the state language and conditions are created for foreigners and stateless persons to study the state language.
That is, the possibility of teaching individual or several disciplines in foreign languages is already provided.
Changes proposed by bill 3717
Bill 3717 (on amending the Law of Ukraine "On Higher Education" regarding the regulation of educational activities in the field of higher education for foreign citizens and stateless persons) is called such, which will allow foreign students to teach in Russian. This bill was registered by the people's deputies from the Servant of the People.
For foreigners, training can be carried out in a foreign language. There are two important points here:
- these study groups consist exclusively of foreigners;
- foreigners study at the expense of individuals or legal entities.
Universities provide the study of the state language by such persons throughout the entire period of study.
The main argument of the creators of the document is the profits from the training of foreigners in Ukrainian universities. The explanatory note notes that the education of foreigners is not only an image, but also an investment in the country's higher education.
"Taking into account the expenses of foreign students for education, transport, accommodation, meals, insurance, registration of a residence permit, preparation of documents for admission, etc., according to minimum estimates, foreign students leave more than $ 500 million in Ukraine annually," says the message.
Therefore, "it is imperative to create the most favorable conditions for teaching foreign students in Ukraine in a foreign language."
Verkhovna Rada Chairman Dmytro Razumkov says the bill does not threaten the Ukrainian language. He noted that the bill speaks "exclusively about foreigners" who now cannot acquire knowledge in the Ukrainian language. According to him, the draft law deals with teaching "in other languages" and there is no clarification that these are "Russian or Hungarian languages."
Yulia Gryshyna, a member of the Council's educational committee, noted that more than 70 thousand foreigners study in Ukraine. But the outflow of students in two years was 10%. According to research, the most popular languages of instruction for foreign students are English (59%), Russian (26%), and French. There is a request to expand the list of foreign languages, in particular from Romania, Hungary, Morocco.
Gryshyna also focused on the need to simplify the access of Belarusian students to study in Ukrainian educational institutions.
What is the threat of the draft law?
The head of the NaUKMA International Cooperation Department, Larysa Chovnyuk, noted that by foreign students, the authors of the draft laws meant citizens of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, etc., who are lost due to the lack of the Russian language.
"Due to pseudo-patriotic arguments like" we will not give the applicants to Russia "there is a proposal to" retain "(or return) the Russian language to the Ukrainian academic space," Chovnyuk writes in her commentary for Dzerkalo Tyzhnia.
A number of questions arise here:
Training of teachers and purchase of literature. Will universities buy Russian-language publications instead of buying new English-language sources?
Conferences, publications will be held in the post-Soviet space instead of the English language?
In the countries of Central Asia, Russian is foreign. Why would Ukraine teach Russian to students from Turkmenistan instead of immediately reorienting itself to English?
Why does Ukraine speak of foreign students in the context of financial gain, when other countries are ready to invest in them and "fight for the brains"?
Committee member Natalia Pipa says that the number of foreign students has increased in recent years and without the return of the Russian language.
"In 2019, there were 80,000 foreign students, due to the coronavirus, their number decreased to 70 thousand. In previous years, it was less. That is, despite the language of instruction, the number of students is increasing and the language is not the key here," Pipa said.
Ombudsman for the protection of the state language Taras Kremin stressed that "the bill is the return of the Russian language to the educational process, because the initiators do not hide that by" foreign "they mean primarily Russian."
"The possibility of teaching individual or several disciplines in English, other official languages of the European Union, as well as ensuring the study of the state language by foreigners, stateless persons is already provided for by the current legislation and does not require the amendments proposed by the authors of the bill No. 3717," said Kremin.
NaUKMA stressed that the issue of languages of instruction in universities has long been resolved. Ukrainian and foreign students use the state and English languages. The benefits of this are great, because English "provides access to the results of world science, encourages the use of the latest research and publications."
"The result is the receipt by both Ukrainian and foreign students of a modern high-quality education that meets the state interests of Ukraine," the statement of NaUKMA says.
The educational institution called the new legislative initiative "a veiled desire to promote Russian."
"The desire of individual politicians to restore teaching and learning in Russian at universities (despite the veiled wording, we understand that we are talking about promoting the Russian language), even if we are talking about foreign students, does not meet the needs of the development of higher education in Ukraine (direct the economic benefit of individual universities is not among them), nor its geopolitical aspirations. The adoption of bill No. 3717 in the parliament, in our opinion, will be a big step back for Ukrainian education and society as a whole," NaUKMA representatives note.
The National University of Ostroh Academy also spoke out against No. 3717.
There are also alternatives. For example, Ivan Krulko, a member of the Batkivshchyna faction, submitted Bill 5727-1, proposing to educate foreign students who spend $ 700 million a year on education and living in our country in any language other than Russian.