The New Framework for the M. Sc. Thesis Work: Applying European Experience to Higher Education in Ukraine
Terziyan V.Y., Kaykova O.B., Vitko O.V., Titova L.V.
Kharkiv State Technical University of Radioelectronics, Kharkiv
The new framework for a Master of Science thesis work has been developed as the main outcome of the Tempus Compact Project UM_CP-20560-1999 of a TACIS programme. This is a result of the co-operation between the Kharkov State Technical University of Radioelectronics, Ukraine, the University of Jyvaskyla, Finland and the Athens University of Economics and Business, Greece.
The overall objective of the two-year university management compact project is to strengthen the links between the participating universities and to enhance the co-operation with industry as a contribution to the higher education reform in Ukraine. The project is linked with several national higher education policy objectives in Ukraine, such as the implementation of a new M.Sc. degree and the integration to European higher educational system, including procedures for credit transfer.
The Master's degree is awarded in arts, science, music, engineering, business administration and education all over the world. Masterís education is in principle a new stage for Ukraine in preparing specialists with advanced levels of proficiency.
Higher educational system in Ukraine is presented as a multilevel system in the Law "About Education" of Ukraine. Such an educational system exists in many foreign countries and now it is introduced in Ukraine. Multilevel educational system provides stepwise education, which gives students the opportunity to reach at a sufficient level and to continue their education later on if necessary.
The primary level of higher education in Ukraine is the Bachelorís degree. The middle level is the degree of Specialist and the highest level is the Masterís degree. In this paper the advantages of multilevel system are demonstrated. If one wants to complete higher education at the minimal level you can progress to the Specialistís degree. In order to become a high ranking professional in this area, and to obtain extended knowledge one can study according to the Masterís curriculum. Students themselves should decide which level (Bachelor, Specialist or Master) to reach.
The requirements for a Master of Science degrees can be fulfilled during an academic year (two semesters) wholly devoted to advanced study. In other cases, a year, a year and a half or two years of study may be required to complete these requirements. A candidate must complete all the requirements for the master's degree within five years from the point of initial registration for graduate study.
There are several components in Masterís studies, which distinguish it from Specialistí level. First of all a Master of Science (M.Sc.) obtains a more complete and deep knowledge in special courses than a Specialist. Moreover M.Sc. students are required to study several additional courses without any assistance. All M.Sc. students should demonstrate their full knowledge potential in writing the M.Sc. thesis. The preparation of a thesis is one of the most important parts of work leading to a M.Sc. degree.
The most important distinction between Masterís and Specialistí degrees is to increase the scientific level of the M.Sc. thesis. The requirement for a Specialist is to possess the ability to apply obtained knowledge in practice. A Master of Science should focus his attention on scientific research, and the development of theoretical aspects of new techniques.
If M.Sc. thesis contains profound and new ideas it can be recommended to be the basis of a Ph.D. thesis.
Until now there was no unified and strict scheme for the management of studentsí thesis work. Consequently, the new framework for management of studentsí M.Sc. work was required.
One of the aims of Tempus project UM_CP-20560-1999 was to collect and generalise the positive experience of Ukrainian and foreign universities in the field of management of thesis work. It includes several steps. First of all we have made deep analysis of data collected, have found strong and weak sides of it in the existing approaches, the critical differences between EU schemes and Ukrainian schemes. After that the deep analysis of Ukrainian education policy was made to find the restrictions that could limit the new framework. National and local requirements were taken into account, experience of EU-partners was used, and it was applied to the main ideas of a new framework for M.Sc. thesis work Ė guarantee of the academic independence, scheme and principals of teamwork, the credit-based accounting system.
The renewed scheme for management is provided. New principles are introduced. The most important innovations are: (1) the new Framework guarantees the academic independence in selection the topic and the supervisor for the Masterís thesis work; (2) the new practice to combine the courses in blocks was established for master programmes; (3) developed a new scheme for Pro-Gradu seminars which was a developed allows the teamwork and fundamentally improves the quality of education for the master students; (4) the credits accounting system for external studies from the partner universities is included to the new Framework; (5) writing a research proposal for the Thesis work is required now; (6) the principals of approval the Practical Training and Special Assignments from partner universities were introduced; (7) they so-called "multi-trial" thesis defence was established; (8) a new clear set of evaluation criteria for Masterís Thesis was established for reviewers and supervisors; (9) the different criteria are to be used for evaluation of theoretical thesis and industry-oriented thesis; (10) a new grade system together with technique for referring to the old grade system was proposed.
We developed a model for accounting of ECTS credits for courses and projects which exchange students (either Ukrainian or foreign) bring from EU universities to KhTURE and from KhTURE to EU universities.
The most important issues are: (1) the principally modified Curriculum structure; (2) the modified Diploma Supplement; (3) the new approach to studies similarity recognition based on a new course unit description; (4) the scheme for accounting ECTS credits for the courses and projects. This scheme takes into account the "impact" of each course on focus of speciality; (5) the scheme for transfer Ukrainian grades to ECTS grades. This scheme also takes into account the "impact" of each course on focus of speciality; (6) the framework of the Web-based consulting system for credit transfer and course recognition, realised on XML-technique.
So, any university in Ukraine can take this accounting scheme and apply it for educational contacts with EU universities.
We clearly understand that just the development of a new model or a new framework is not enough for integration of education in Ukraine to European educational system. It should be approved and used and give good results in practice. Only after that one can say that he makes good contribution to the process of integration. And we can prove our contribution with the facts.
The new framework was officially approved by university administration in Kharkov State Technical University of Radioelectronics, Ukraine and it is in use now for the master and engineer students of the IDSS speciality (Intelligent Decision Support Systems), more than 30 students are involved in it. The new international M.Sc. exchange programmes for 25-30 students annually from KhTURE are based on the new Framework. They are:
These evident steps of integration of educational system in Ukraine to EU educational system were made due to the new framework which was developed for M.Sc. thesis work. The Kharkiv university of Radioelectronics makes the way and it is obviously it can be followed by the other universities of Ukraine.
Re-training in EU-universities for the staff of KhTURE were organized to provide deep knowledge in new techniques of Management of the Masterís Thesis work and credit-based accounting of courses. The staff of KhTURE has got useful experience which will be spread in home university during project dissemination during this year. Such sharing of experience is also a step to integration between higher educational system in Ukraine and in Europe.
Because of the UM_CP-20560-1999 project is linked with Ukrainian higher education policy objectives, it will have a strong national impact. The existing M.Sc. level of education in Ukraine will benefit greatly from a formulated and clear framework and quality control. It is expected that this project will greatly contribute to the development M.Sc. education and increase the demand for M.Sc. programmes.
We should make an accent on the fact that not only Ukraine benefits from the developed new framework for M.Sc. thesis work. In principle the easy exchange of students, post-graduates and teachers can be feasible after applying the developed scheme for credit transfer. In other words, we see the integration between Ukrainian and EU educational systems not only as "one-way process".
The project team from the Kharkov State Technical University of Radioelectronics, Ukraine is obliged the teams of the University of Jyvaskyla, Finland and the Athens University of Economics and Business, Greece for their co-operation within Tempus project.