TRAINING local government officers may not seem like a mould-breaking revolutionary activity, but the Ukrainian Academy of Public Administration is leading the way in changing Ukraine education.
It symbolises the break from Moscow, which trained all local government officers and civil servants in the former Soviet Union. Training was to administer a centralised, planned economy and society.
But Ukraine today is market-orientated and autonomous. The government believes that a decentralised system of local planning responds better to local needs. The academy was established by presidential decree in 1995.
Under the 1996 Education Reform Act some responsibilities for education were devolved to local authorities. It will be local government officers who administer the reform.
The Dnipropetrovsk branch of the academy has struck a cooperation deal with the University of North London, one of the few universities in Britain with a Ukrainian centre. A masters in public administration is being set up with financial assistance from the United Kingdom's Know How Fund. The masters is to be validated by UNL.
Yuri Sharov, deputy director of the Dnipropetrovsk branch, said: "Local government officers who have worked a minimum of one year for state structures and local government organisations are referred to us from their place of work. They must have degrees. The programme aims to train public servants who will be able to develop and implement policies in different spheres of public activity. It is designed to help them analyse and solve problems in their own particular area.
"Our course is very intensive, according to Western standards - they have about six hours of contact teaching a day. In addition to the MA they also follow an intensive foreign-language course, which they do in the evening.
"The opportunity of learning a foreign language free and a placement at UNL is considered vital. We need to be able to read Western material, to learn from the experience of operating in a democratic way."
UNL also helps Ukrainian officials with materials and visiting lecturers. The course combines theory with practice.
There are lectures on economics, law and management strategy, and courses in public speaking and information technology.
Teaching methods are more student centred and communicative than is traditional in Eastern Europe - with lots of role play, business games and student participation in the lectures.
"We know this course is successful," said Mr Sharov. "We keep track of our students when they leave us, and most are promoted within a year. It is a fast-track to success."
Sergey Seriogin, course director, added: "We dream that one day one of our graduates will become the president of the Ukraine. Maybe it's our only chance of getting a decent pension."