Ukraine plans inspections over huge spike in draft-age enrolments

Applications climbed by almost 2,000 per cent in 2022, the year of the Russian invasion, but most students chose low-cost courses with minimal entrance requirements

April 9, 2024
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Ukraine will conduct random inspections of higher education institutions after an “abnormal increase” in the number of applications from draft-age men in 2022, the country’s State Service of Education Quality has said. 

The government body, which monitors education standards and implements policy, said it had analysed state data on men born between 1964 and 1994 who entered or returned to full-time education between 2021 and 2023. At present, higher education students are exempt from conscription.

In 2022, the year of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and president Volodymyr Zelensky’s subsequent declaration of martial law, applications to higher education and professional pre-higher education (junior bachelor’s) programmes spiked, increasing by 1,880 per cent.

Most conscription-age applicants chose low-cost courses with minimal entrance requirements, the state body said, with only a “small proportion” using their results from entrance examinations such as the External Independent Examination (ZNO) or National Multisubject Test (NMT) to enrol.

According to a statement from the agency, the rise in enrolments has increased pressure on university budgets and teaching staff, resulting in a “danger that the heads of certain higher education institutions will not comply with the requirements of the legislation regarding the organisation of the educational process”.

The service said the increase in demand could result in “negative long-term consequences” for the quality of higher education. Announcing a “comprehensive monitoring study” to continue until the end of the academic year, the body said it would conduct random inspections of higher education institutions.

More than two years since Russia’s invasion, the Ukrainian army is under significant strain, with 31,000 soldiers killed. Last week, Mr Zelensky signed a controversial bill to drop the minimum draft age by two years, from 27 to 25.

Later this month, the Ukrainian parliament is expected to vote on another law that could see men completing second degrees no longer exempt from conscription.

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