G.H. Eliason for The Saker Blog
Recently, I had the chance to sit down with the Deputy Director of the Institute for International Cooperation at DonNTU (Donetsk National Technical University) and had a frank discussion about the state of higher education at the university today.
This is the first interview in what will be an ongoing series covering all the different aspects of nation-building in both Lugansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic.
The series will cover the problems both young countries are facing as they develop and the solutions both republics are implementing.
Beginning with written interviews, this series will include video interviews and reports. Follow up interviews will show progress and set-backs the republics are facing and explore why.
All of this will be measured against how well 6-year-old Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic are developing against the same sectors of an established 26-year-old Ukraine.
· Civil Society
· Social Welfare & Safety Net
· Arts and Culture
· Ecology and Food Security
· Legal Reform
When you consider the limited resources and war-time development of both republics, Ukraine should stand out like a beacon. But does it?
Before the civil war started in 2014, 100-year-old Donetsk National Technical University was the leading technical university in Ukraine and had a world-wide reputation for academic excellence that drew students from across the world, including the US and EU.
After the 2014 coup and subsequent civil war began, DonNTU lost some of its faculty to relocation and the international student base that earned degrees there.
From 2014 to present day, the focus of the university has shifted to a local student base because of the war. To the chagrin of Ukraine’s former president Petr Poroshenko, the universities of Donetsk and Lugansk are preparing students in academic disciplines who are capable of leading and excelling anywhere in the world today in their professions.
Consider this analogy. If Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) were forced to only admit local students, what would it do to regional and national demographics in all the related fields taught there?
The entirely localized academic concentration would naturally lead to massive local growth of R&D, tech start-ups, advanced engineering, and new business which would lift the entire region and boost economic growth, stability, and wages as well as prestige.
Both republics of Donbass have pre-2014 recognized world-class universities in the position to do this.
For anyone quick to dismiss the MIT analogy, Donetsk National Technical University earned that level of reputation for a technical university long before the civil war started.
DonNTU is maintaining that level of academic excellence 6 years into a civil war even while being shelled by Ukraine in an effort to shut the university doors.
At the same time, Ukraine is lowering educational standards starting at the elementary and high school levels.
If only for investment purposes, would companies prefer that or the more educated higher skilled workforce that is developing in Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic?
“Victories of students of Donetsk National Technical University in world competitions have become a tradition. Aleksey Labeev , undergraduate in the Department of Electric Drive and Industrial Plant Automation, Faculty of Electrical Engineering (EAPum-19 group) won the Simulink Student Challenge 2019 competition , which is held annually among students and graduate students of engineering universities around the world. He took II place with the project Robotic Arm on Caterpillar Tracks (link is external). Results of the competition (external link) were announced on January 22, 2020.”
GE– Deputy Director Dzhura, tell me a little bit about your background and position.
S.Dzhura-I was born in 1964 in Donetsk, finished high school there and entered Donetsk Polytechnic Institute in 1981. I got a degree in 1986 and was hired by the Institute this very year. I have still been working here. Now it’s called Donetsk National Technical University.
GE– What prompted you to teach at Donetsk Technical University?
S.Dzhura-My father, my son and I have got our degrees here. To us, it is the best university in the world. Come and see it yourself! By the way, you can read our monthly newsletter on international events in English. You can also discuss the news at our FaceBook page.
GE– How long have you been there?
GE-What was university life like before the civil war started? Was it much different?
S.Dzhura-It was a very interesting life. We were the key university in the country. The First State Prize in Foreign Cooperation proves it. There was a strong competition in which many respected universities took part, and we won the prize. They didn’t believe it was a fair award (maybe it was out of envy) and I was sent to Kiev twice to participate at international exhibitions where we proved our status and brought back some more awards. We had many foreign students and about 30 thousand local ones then. Here is a brief description of the University of that Period:
Donetsk National Technical University (DonNTU) is the first higher education establishment in the Donbass Region and one of the first technical universities in Ukraine. 27,000 students study at 18 faculties, 60 specialties being their major. There are 28 correspondent members and academicians of different engineering academies, 18 honorary researchers and professors among the academics of the University. A number of scientists of DonNTU are honorary and full members of different foreign organizations, academies. There are professors and students whose work was supported by the Soros Fund. Donetsk National Technical University is a member of:
· UICEE –The International Engineering Education Centre sponsored by the UNESCO, Melbourne, Australia;
· EAIE – European Association of the International Education;
· EAAU – Euro-Asian Association of Universities;
· SEFI – European Association of Engineering Education;
· IGIP – International Association of Engineering Education (Austria)
· COFRAMA – French Council on Management Links Development with the Countries of the CIS and Russia (Lion, France); PRELUDE – International Association of Research and Links with Universities (Belgium);
· CEUME – Consortium of Management Education in Ukraine ( the USA, Poland);
· URAN – Ukrainian Educational and Research Network sponsored by the NATO and German Research Network;
DonNTU is traditionally a participant of a number of international programs:
· TEMPUS-TACISNCD-JEP – 23125-2002 European Studios; DAAD Eastern Partnerships ( Germany);
· Stipend of the International Board of the Ministry of Education and Science ( the German Aerodynamics Center);
· BWTZ-Programm (Germany, the Ministry of Science),
· INTAS – Publishing House ( Germany) ;
· BMEU/CEUME Business-Management- Education (the USA, Poland);
· The Jozef Mihknowski Science Development Fund ( Poland);
· Students Exchange Programs AIESEC (Poland);
· The grant of the Ministry of Education and Sports, Poland;
· The grant of the Ministry of Education and Science ( Russia);
· The program Dnipro (France) ;
· Grant of the Special School of Social Works, Construction and Industry (ESTP), (France);
· The grant of the Government of Czech Republic;
· SIDA – Master’s and Bachelor’s program Sandwich (Sweden) and others.
DonNTU has more than 80 collaboration agreements with universities all over the world. There is the representative office of the Siemens company at the University as well as three Engineering Faculties (German, French, and English) at which students are trained in a corresponding foreign language. The Polish Faculty has been established recently. 30 professors from foreign universities of all the continents are Honorary Doctors of DonNTU. The University has a reading room sponsored by the Goethe Institute, Germany.
The well-known people, leaders of the largest industrial companies and political boards, engineering elite of Ukraine that has graduated from DonNTU call the University the most prestigious higher education establishment of Donbass.
GE– How much does the war affect the faculty’s ability to provide a good education for the students?
S.Dzhura-It definitely influences. We have many difficulties, but the university’s heroic staff and its excellent administration are overcoming them and believe that we will be able to work in full force as it was before because there will be no barriers especially as to our international recognition. We will be able to enroll foreign students, take part in different programs to get grants (we were the leaders in this respect). Once I was responsible for the implementation of the TEMPUS ( we got one of the nine biggest European grants) which we successfully worked at. Now we have great hopes for being with the Russian Federation not only in terms of spirit but legally too, sooner or later.
GE-Has the Donetsk school system’s ability to prepare students for university-level academics been compromised because of the war?
S.Dzhura-It became complicated, especially at the beginning when the university was attacked by artillery, rockets and phosphorus bombs (all of these are banned by international laws, and more than that we are a civil object!)
The results of one of the attacks can be seen on the video: Consequences of the shelling of DonNTU (Donetsk) on August 14, 2014.
However, the university’s heroic staff and all citizens of the Donetsk People’s Republic passed this trial and we are sure in our bright future.
GE-What challenges are the primary and secondary schools facing to prepare students?
S.Dzhura-You’d better ask them about it. We know that there are some difficulties but they are and always will be. The difference is only in the difficulties level.
GE-Is it academically difficult for new students to enter the university?
S.Dzhura-Again you’d better ask them about it. I think now it’s easier to do. Before the war, we had students from all over the world and the level of competition among both students and teachers was high.
Nevertheless, we are trying to uphold our reputation and the knowledge the university gives is recognized around the world. The International Office of DonNTU is getting requests from different world universities and companies to confirm our university degree got by foreign students who are enrolled or hired by them with pleasure as Donetsk National Technical University is the world brand.
Our university will see its 100th anniversary in a year. Two leaders of the world Powers have graduated from it: Mr. Nikita Khrushchev, who led the USSR and under the ruling of whom the first astronaut from our country flew into space; the second one is Mr. Viktor Yanukovich, who was the president of Ukraine before the coup d’état made by outside forces. So, as you see, we are a world-famous university.
GE-How well does the quality education prepare them for their future professions? Are they meeting international standards?
S.Dzhura-It is getting more difficult to meet the standards. But the level of the knowledge our students obtain is proved by some results. They win prizes at different competitions not only in the Russian Federation but also in other countries, the USA being among them: More details are on our site.
We have journals in French and Spanish. I mentioned the English one above. We hope to revive (now it is banned by our legislation because of the war) our foreign faculties (English, German, and French Engineering) and departments (Dutch, Czech, and Polish). The German Engineering Faculty got the equipment which cost 20 million Euros. The equipment operates at our university.
GE-As an educator in the Donetsk university system, do you see the education students receive at the university now as having a lot of value to research, infrastructure, manufacturing, and other types of companies investing in Donetsk? What about internationally?
S.Dzhura-The plant of the American company Cargill was built in the Petrovski district of Donetsk before the war. 98% of the staff from workers to senior managers were our graduates. And it is not the only example. I think when the shellings are over and the crimes of the international level the Ukrainian side commits are assessed, we will be able to work in full force.
GE-Do the students have a real interest in building a strong civil society in Donetsk and Lugansk with social safety nets including legal and political equality, reforms, etc?
S.Dzhura-As I talk to my students every day I can say “definitely yes”. There are some initiatives of our Republic such as “ Support of the DPR”, youth parliament where not only students but also the French teacher Francois Modeme work. And “Young Republic” works and operates efficiently.
This is the first installment in the LDNR State Building- Education Series.