Twenty years after independence, the Ukrainian government is trying to stay competitive in scientific areas such as aerospace, applied mathematics, theoretical physics, energy and organic farming. But its higher education is still tied to the old Soviet system.
The government's intended reforms do not go far enough towards meeting international standards. For example, Ukrainian scientists are trained for a Soviet-style Doctor of Sciences (DSc) degree, which is not based on original research or external peer review. Scholars instead spend 10–20 years on unproductive, essentially bureaucratic work. Therefore, despite a doubling in the number of DSc students over the past 20 years (see http://go.nature.com/f8agxb), international ratings for Ukrainian universities have remained low.
A paucity of publications in international peer-reviewed journals also stems from Ukraine's academic promotion system, which fosters inertia among research scientists, and from poorly developed skills in foreign languages.
Ukraine's universities need to adopt internationally recognized standards, promote autonomy under democratic and competent management, and support academics to encourage them to stay at home.