Means-ends decoupling and academic identities in Ukrainian university after the Revolution of Dignity by Myroslava Hladchenko and Don F.Westerheijden

Myroslava Hladchenko,
National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine
Don F.Westerheijden, Center for Higher Education Policy Studies, University Twente, the Netherlands

The higher education institution, individual, disciplinary, professional and national cultural dimensions are entities that provide resources for the construction of academic identities. Over the last decades, academic identities at the universities in Western societies have undergone a profound change due to the establishment of such global models as a research university, Bologna Process, knowledge economy etc. Moreover, the academic identities at universities in Western societies have also institutionalised as global models by themselves. They prescribe academics not only teaching but also doing research and knowledge transfer. The less developed countries aiming to integrate into the Western society diffuse the global cultural models into the specific national context. Meanwhile, the enactment of the global models can result in means-ends decoupling at the nation-state level.

The article published in the European Journal of Higher Education aims to explore the construction of the academic identities under the conditions of means-ends decoupling at the nation-state level. For our research, we choose Ukraine. Though in 1991 Ukraine gained independence after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian professional and national dimensions of higher education have inherited a lot from the Soviet model. In 2014, after the Revolution of Dignity, the Ukrainian government has claimed a course on European integration what led to the adoption of the several legislative initiatives in higher education. The teaching workload of academics was decreased from 900 to 600 hours per year, the academics to allocate more time for research. The education ministry also changed the requirements to the scientific titles aiming to enhance the quality of higher education though the focus of the academics on the research at the international level and improvement of their knowledge of English. However, as the institutional environment was not reformed to align with the global models, the policy initiatives reflect a case of means-ends decoupling at the nation-state level.

Our findings reveal that means-ends decoupling at the nation-state resulted in the institutional complexity hinders either the decrease of the teaching workload or the new demands to the scientific titles have led to the intended outcomes – identities of Ukrainian academics to align with those prescribed by the global models. It occurs as the global models prescribe not only practices and identities for individual actors but also for the nation-state and organisations, thus relevant national, professional and organisational cultural dimensions. Furthermore, our findings reveal that institutional complexity next to the practices of the individuals who head the higher education institution do not align with the global model of the research university result in means-ends decoupling at the organizational level. The latter causes cultural complexity. To summarise, institutional and cultural complexity experienced by individuals trigger means-ends decoupling at the institutional level. Meanwhile, the awareness of academics about them to sustain means-ends decoupling results both in cognitive dissonance and identity conflict.

As the negative consequences of means-ends decoupling is the diversion of resources, in Ukrainian case it concerns human intellectual capital. The longer mean-ends decoupling at the nation-state level will last the more human capital will be lost.