25 Years of Transformations of Higher Education Systems in Post-Soviet Countries. Reform and Continuity
The book is a result of the first ever study of the transformations of the higher education institutional landscape in fifteen former USSR countries after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. It explores how the single Soviet model that developed across the vast and diverse territory of the Soviet Union over several decades has evolved into fifteen unique national systems, systems that have responded to national and global developments while still bearing some traces of the past. The book is distinctive as it presents a comprehensive analysis of the reforms and transformations in the region in the last 25 years; and it focuses on institutional landscape through the evolution of the institutional types established and developed in Pre-Soviet, Soviet and Post-Soviet time. It also embraces all fifteen countries of the former USSR, and provides a comparative analysis of transformations of institutional landscape across Post-Soviet systems. It will be highly relevant for students and researchers in the fields of higher education and and sociology, particularly those with an interest in historical and comparative studies.
The Republic of Moldova has a long history of shifting borders, and a short history as an independent state. Higher education only expanded during the Soviet era, which saw 9 public higher education institutions come into existence between 1926 and 1988. On the one hand, ample state funding for higher education allowed an unprecedented growth in access to higher education, a well-developed technical and material base, and internationally comparable educational standards. On the other hand, high level of centralization of the Soviet educational system made it static and unable to adequately respond to the changing needs of a dynamic labor market. Strict educational centralization led to bureaucratization of management, authoritarianism, excessive uniformity, lack of understanding of local conditions, stifling of ‘bottom-up’ initiative, and lack of academic mobility. At the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, participation in higher education was still the third lowest among all Soviet republics.
In this chapter we explore the higher education institutional landscape taking the case of the largest post-Soviet higher education system: Russia. In the Post-Soviet period, Russian higher education has tremendously expanded. The dramatic growth of the number of students and institutions has been facilitated by the introduction of tuition fees in public and a new private sector. The shifts in social and economic demand for professional fields affected the disciplinary and organisational structure of higher educational institutions.
The external forces (economic, political, social conditions) and higher education policy have been changing during the last decades. In the first part of transitional period, the state provided limited regulation of the higher education system. In the 2000s, it has returned to its role of the main agent of change of the higher education system design. The diversity of institutional types that evolved in Russian higher education illustrate the consequences of massification and marketization, such as new “broad access” segments and institutional programme drift. Also, the governmental role in shaping institutional diversity can been seen through attempts to increase vertical diversity (excellence initiatives), on the one hand, and to restrain it by closing down bottom tier institutions, on the other.
The objective of this chapter is to present the common legacy basis for the chapters devoted to specific post-Soviet countries.