Ukrainian-American Humanitarian (Liberal Arts) Institute
«Wisconsin International University (USA) Ukraine»

Украинско-Американский гуманитарный институт
«Висконсинский Международный Университет (США) в Украине» (УАГИ ВМУУ)

Українсько-Американський гуманітарний інститут
«Вісконсінський Міжнародний Університет (США) в Україні» (УАГИ ВМУУ)

12 August 2008

Disclaimer: the situation has developed, for better or for worse, since 2008. This review should be considered definitely out of date, and of historical interest only.

This is an international student's opinion on UAHI, a university situated in Kyiv, Ukraine - a review, or evaluation, if you will. I have studied in UAHI from 2004 to 2008, and barely got out with a straight-A record (3.97 GPA). I've made friends with most teachers I've had, and have given some voluntary help in administrative matters while being a (not particularly popular among the students) teacher's assistant and later a part-time system administrator.

It's a very interesting university, and one I would recommend to anyone looking for education in the business sphere.

They have a website, which could have better usability, but does offer a nice breakdown of information.

UAHI was founded in 1997 as a private business university, cooperating with the National Dragomanov Pedagogical University, and Wisconsin International University. Since then, affiliations have fluctuated, and UAHI operates as an independent, accredited Ukrainian university. It is, nonetheless, very international.

Degrees. Presently UAHI offers a BBA degree, an MBA degree, and three kinds of "Management of Foreign Economic Activity" degrees. The BBA program is normally four years, and the MBA probably one and a half years.

The BBA and MBA programs are considered "American", and are taught completely in English. The other programs use the local languages. Really motivated students can even take both the Ukrainian and American programs at the same time, getting diplomas from two programs for maximal credibility in future job interviews.

The BBA and MBA diplomas are received from the Ukrainian Ministry of Education. Your course transcript is then sent to an accredited western university, so you can receive a second, western diploma, for the same program.

Originally the western diplomas came from our favorite parent, Wisconsin International University, at no extra cost. For some reason, this was later switched to American City University, at extra cost, but they unexpectedly closed down halfway through 2007. The next batch of diplomas came from WIU again, and at present the word is that the next partner will be London City College, a notably prestigious institution. Expect to have to pay a prestigious extra fee if you want that second diploma from them.

UAHI signs a contract with every student for providing education and afterward a diploma certifying as much. A word of caution, though: the clearly stated verbal agreement with us students starting in 2004 was that an American diploma would be received at no extra cost. However, by the time graduation time rolled around, the university decided they could no longer afford to pay for the western diplomas for us. Because the contract we had signed was worded somewhat ambiguously, they could get away with this. Now, I don't much care about having a western diploma - the Ukrainian one is perfectly valid in Europe - but I am riled with the university top administration's behavior. Read your contract critically.

Teachers. UAHI has a fairly stable group of Ukrainian professors, who have a reputation of being mostly kind and professional. I have taken some courses with them, too. From what I gather, the less enthusiastic ones do give lots of pointless theoretical material to memorize (but not as much as most Ukrainian teachers do), and give difficult tests (but not as bad as most). To make up for this, they allow students a degree of freedom in cheating (but not as much as most teachers allow). The more enthusiastic Ukrainian professors are flexible and all-around jovial. Ukrainian students will be right at home with them. I've only heard of one Ukrainian professor accepting bribes, so you have to study at least somewhat to be successful.

The international professors are a whole different bunch. Turnover among them is quite high; for some reason, western professors can't handle life here for longer than two years at a time. After that, they become increasingly demanding and difficult to cooperate with, and are laid off or sent to a sabbathical. Fresh western teachers, though, are always enthusiastic, almost always professional (except one Jon Pernick who lied about his credentials and tried to trade grades for sex, and was promptly fired when found out), and usually make classes interesting. Beside the western professors, some of the Ukrainian professors have international experience and can teach courses in English. There are also a few professors from other parts of the world.

Most UAHI professors are quite understanding of the rigors of student life, but will get upset if you do not show at least a modicum of respect and interest, ie. show up for class and don't make too much noise.

The international teachers usually offer practical information and do not require pointless memorization. They also tend to give tests that are easy if you have been paying attention in lectures. Sometimes they allow use of your notes or other memory aids during tests. Considering the leeway they do give, they generally take a very dim view of cheating, and many regularly hand out zeros for plagiarized work. Partly as a result of this, the local students sometimes gripe and whine about the international teachers.

Compared to Ukrainian standards, UAHI pays its lecturers very well. Obviously the salaries are far lower than professors in privileged and overpriced western universities get, but there is a certain feel-good factor in being able to help a transitional society grow that makes up for the meager thousand or three thousand dollars a month a diligent UAHI teacher may get.

Students. UAHI has only a few hundred students in total. Most of them are locals, but international students form a good 5% of the student body. Students generally come from eastern European countries, some from the Middle East and Asia, and a few from Africa. Plus, there was this one charming Nordic student.

The environment is conducive to getting to know each other and coming to understand and respect different cultures. Most students in UAHI are of above average intellect, so class discussions can get interesting. Unfortunately, most students also don't know when to shut up, and will happily chatter through the lectures and during exams if the teacher doesn't apply an iron fist.

Most local students do try to take both the Ukrainian and American programs at the same time. I believe there is some overlap in the courses, so it is not as hard as it sounds... but much harder than most western students would consider normal. Doing both programs at once involves taking close to a dozen courses every semester for four years. BBA students only need an average of five courses per semester, and it is possible to choose which courses to take each semester. Of course, since it is a small university, some courses are offered rarely and must be taken whenever available.

There is a tiny student government. They can't affect official decisions much, but they do arrange interesting events now and then. The group is mainly driven by a small core of enthusiasts from among the younger students. The older students are too busy trying to find nice jobs, I guess.

For students considering the university, take note: Ukrainian girls are very beautiful, and fairly cultured. They can also be very demanding, and emotionally explosive. Ukrainian men tend to be chivalrous toward women, and generous, at least during dating. Alcohol consumption and smoking are more common than in many Western places, often done socially.

Cheating. UAHI operates nominally under American university rules, so unfair copying of others' work or allowing your work to be copied is punishable by anything up to expulsion. However, in practice, "helping friends" is a way of life in Ukraine, and the administration realizes that any efforts to change this are doomed. The hardest punishment for cheating I know of has been failing the course. I can state on primary observation that virtually every Ukrainian student cheats at least occasionally. Even the smartest ones, who don't really need to, do it anyway. Ukrainian teachers tolerate, and indirectly encourage, this behavior. International teachers usually punish offenders with point reductions, though this varies.

If you feel no guilt about cheating, you will find opportunities for it rife. Ask the other students for tips and make a few allies to share information with, but whatever you do, please do it discreetly enough that you are not caught. Few things annoy teachers more than students who don't even try to cover obnoxious cheating attempts. And please don't leave cheat sheets lying around, it's impolite toward the cleaning lady.

The administration, with the possible exception of the topmost management, are not bribable - I've witnessed a refusal or two when parents of lazy students tried to negotiate away failing grades. The administration will not adjust your grade just because you are such a nice person, nor for any measly sums of money or services rendered. The grades you get are a combination of earnest effort, skillful cheating, and sucking up to professors. Top grades can not be expected without the willingness to put in sufficient work. What is the point of studying just for the grades, anyway? Then you might as well just pay someone to forge a diploma and be done with it.

Language. Most Ukrainians only know a few words of English. Even the younger generation isn't particularly fluent. The next generation probably will be, already. Students in UAHI are a delightful exception, being pretty much the cream of the crop when it comes to language skills. Several of them have even been abroad for extended periods. With very few exceptions, you can expect to be able to carry on interesting conversations in English with any student.

Since the BBA and MBA programs are taught in English, students with really poor English can't be admitted (unless they pay enough, or are friends with the top administration). The university offers preparatory language courses, should you need any. There is also an annual Business English Competition, held each spring, for Ukrainian pre-university youths. The winners get tuition discounts from UAHI, if they choose to study there. International students will never be eligible for discounts or awards of any sort, though.

A part of the BBA program are language studies. There are, presently, two Business English courses and two English Composition courses, as well as one Business Communication course. In addition, each student must pick one foreign language to study over two years. Spanish is, for some reason, a popular choice. International students are expected to take Russian as the language to learn, if they do not yet know it fluently. You would do well to read up on basics of Russian before coming to the university. To be popular with the students, you could also try to find someone to teach you Ukrainian. Practically everyone in Ukraine understands Russian, but especially among the young, the native Ukrainian language (which is very much like Polish) has become trendy.

Administration. The UAHI administration is generally kind, understanding, and helpful, though not all of them speak English too well. The day-to-day operations of the university are run from the Academic Office or "Dekanat" on the second floor. For any paperwork, questions, scheduling issues, kudos or complaints, they are the ones to turn to. The actual owners of the university practice an extreme form of hands-off management: they rarely show up at all and don't seem to give a rat's tail about what's going on as long as revenue is generated. This assessment may be unfair, and I'll be happy to be proven wrong, should the owners show up one day and do anything useful.

Location. UAHI rents space from Dragomanov, using rooms on the first three floors. The building is somewhat aged, and the rooms can get chilly during winter. Cool temperatures supposedly improve brain activity, so it's okay. The university is at Turgenevs'ka 8/14, with the main office on the first floor, room 1-4. It is easy to get to, a scarce few hundred meters from Peremogy Square. Just find the Kyiv Circus «Tsirk» or the «Ukraina» shopping mall, then stalk bypassing students until one leads you to the right place.

Throughout my time in the university, there have been constant calls for moving to a new, modern building, but that's not going to happen. Real estate prices in Kyiv are too high to acquire a building for the university alone, and it's unlikely any organization would offer a better rental agreement than Dragomanov.

Amenities. There are two computer rooms, one of them brand new. The computers are quite powerful, with flat monitors and infra-red mice. Shared internet access is sufficiently speedy. Printing permissions have been gradually relaxed. In both computer rooms students can now print directly from any computer, or ask the presiding administrator to print stuff for them. The computer rooms are available for student use most of the time unless a class is in session there. Professors are supposed to put studying material on the server for easy access.

The building we use has poor restroom facilities, for both genders - western students will want to avoid them if possible. There may be a nurse's office somewhere on the first floor. There is a cheap cafeteria attached to the university, and several cafes dot the area. There are some drink dispensers in the lobby, and a little kiosk for refreshments a minute's walk down the street. Right across the street is a sports complex with a gym and a swimming pool; students in the Ukrainian program take freeform gym classes there, while the American program doesn't force it. Parking space is limited, but you don't want to drive a car in Kyiv anyway. Use the metro or minibuses, spare the environment, save money, and stay healthier.

UAHI does not offer a dormitory at this time. You may be able to get a nice, small room from the Shevchenko university's dormitory, but the cost gets higher. Alternatively, find a rental apartment somewhere, or live with a friend or family. The university administration may be able to help find a place to stay.

Costs. Tuition fees have steadily gone up over the years. International students probably have to pay more than Ukrainians. I paid 14910 hryvnas a year, for a total of 59640 UAH for four years - a tad over 10000 USD. I suspect the tuition fees for fresh BBA students now are twice that.

In addition there is a legally mandated medical insurance fee for foreigners, roughly 100 USD per year per person.

Living in Kyiv. The city has become modern, offering most services you can expect to find in civilized capitals, along with a number of pretty, cultural sights. There are mini-markets and supermarkets all over the place, and most accept various payment cards, although the majority of transactions are still cash-based. Electricity is pretty reliable, and hot water is only cut two or three times a year. For drinking, bottled water is affordably available. Finding an apartment can be very difficult, and prices can be ridiculous close to the city center. Traffic jams are common and traffic laws are more like guidelines. Cheap public transportation works passably. You could also consider walking, if you are able to land an apartment in a good area.

Traffic accidents are a daily occurrence, so be careful when moving around. According to information in the Kyiv Post, in 2007, there were over 62000 traffic accidents, with 9481 fatalities. That's about 26 deaths a day. Drunk driving is a common pastime - killed one of our students, too, during my time in the university. Since the end of 2007, the government has tightened traffic rules and their enforcement, and a European-style infraction point system is now used. Perhaps the driving culture will yet improve.

The local police or "militsiya" are working on their integrity and have never given me any trouble, although they have a reputation for being notoriously unhelpful when it comes to investigating hate crimes. There is an unhappy minority of the population that believes in good old fascist xenophobia. The Kyiv Post reported 68 confirmed racially motivated attacks, including 8 murders, in 2007. A few of our international students have also gotten assaulted on the streets. Ukrainian extremists evidently try to emulate Russia, where hate crimes are even worse, and mainly seek targets by skin color. Therefore, to be safe, avoid nocturnal adventures, learn the language, bring along a friend or two, and try to look like a white caucasian.

For parents of students. UAHI is a great place to teach your rapidly maturing child how to operate in a business environment. It is not a great place for teaching your yet immature child how to be mature. If your child is not interested in a business career, please do not insist that they get a business education anyway. We have had such students, and their presence seriously damages the learning atmosphere because they do not care, will not learn, and distract others from learning. Late teenage boys are the worst offenders. I'd encourage letting them get a little basic work experience before starting university; they will be able to appreciate the education on a wholly different level and can gain much more from it.