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Lviv Institute of Management — a new frontier of management teaching
Nataliya Kosmolinska discovers a new frontier college that teaches business management.
It was back in 1990, at the time when the Soviet Union, was tottering but still very much in existence, that two professors of economics at the Lviv University, Viktor Penzenyk and Ivan Vasyunyk, came up with an idea of establishing a business-management training college which would promote new economic concepts. It was the time when the economy of this country was still operating on the “planning” principle. The innovatory idea was put into practice, and true to its somewhat “underground” nature, the college began functioning in the basement of the Lviv University. Less than a year remained before the total collapse of the Soviet Union would open the way to Ukraine’s independence.
At the start, the prospects of the Lviv Institute of Management for the future did not look particularly bright. The Soviet regime had worked very hard at robbing people of the initiative and entrepreneurial spirit. Private enterprise had been completely wiped out (in the Soviet times, selling vegetables grown in your own garden, and repairing shoes were probably the only “private businesses” remaining); it would not be too much of an exaggeration to describe management, Soviet style, as mismanagement. Thus, private enterprise and Western-type management were things virtually unknown in the early 1990s. It was not quite clear for the founders of the Management Institute what should be taught first — economics the way it was practised in the “civilized” world, or Western-style management?
The initial problems were exacerbated by many factors — the Soviet system of running the economy was still very much alive even after the Soviet Union had passed away; most of the Soviet bureaucrats had remained at their places and thus were a great hindrance to the reforms; the popular conscience, after decades of Soviet propaganda brainwashing, was aggressively hostile to “capitalist” business and management, to name but the biggest stumbling blocks.
People were to be taught that earning money was all right, that knowing how to manage and run business was all right too; people were to come to understand that money was not necessarily “an evil thing despised by the high-brow intelligentsia.”
The curriculum of the Lviv Institute of Management was based largely on the Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme which had been successfully used in many countries of the world. This programme had been worked out with those in mind who had already had some experience in business management and had a bachelor’s degree. The problem that immediately arose with the first students enrolled by the Institute was the availability of “some experience in business management.” Some did have some experience in management — but of the Soviet kind; others were reluctant to reveal they had had some experience in managing semi-private businesses which were grudgingly allowed to operate by the Soviets at the last stages of the existence of the Soviet empire. People were unsure what would happen next and whether there would be no coming back to the Soviet police state.
“I was among the first students who got enrolled at the Institute,” recalls Serhiy Hvozdyov, a graduate of the Institute and now director of the Business School at the Lviv Institute of Management. “We went to the USA for a month of business and management training — such training was part of the MBA programme, and while we were there, there was an attempt made by the diehard, hard core communist bosses in the still existing Soviet Union to return to a much tougher political and police control. The putsch eventually failed but for several days we were not sure what kind of a country we would be returning to… It was a tough job to dismantle the Soviet system even though there was no more such country as the Soviet Union… The Institute did not have its own premises in the first few years of its existence and the building that had once belonged to the local communist party committee was rented — who could have thought that ‘capitalist business and management’ would be taught at the place which used to be the very centre of ‘anti-capitalist ideology’! …At first, most of the teachers were invited from the USA, Canada and Germany; a month of additional training in the USA completed the programme. It was nothing short of a revolutionary breakthrough. Our views went through a complete transformation. New ideas, new understanding of how things could and should be run revolutionized our thinking. We were making discoveries that allowed us to look at the world and ourselves from a totally different perspective. There were new goals to achieve, there were things suddenly revealed that were worth living and striving for. We saw how badly we had been robbed by the Soviet regime and then we knew that we could realize our intellectual potential through making efforts of our own choosing, through applying the skills we were trained to develop. My life took a U-turn. I was thirty then, and before I got involved with the Management Institute and its MBA programme, I had thought that I’d go on working in the field of applied mathematics — something I had learnt at the Lviv Polytechnic. I had even begun writing a dissertation in mathematics, I had planned to come back to the Polytechnic to teach math — and then suddenly everything changed and I realized it was not what I actually wanted to do — I saw I could pursue an altogether different career that would give me a lot more moral and professional satisfaction and would be much more lucrative. It was so great to know that I was free to choose my own course in life without any restrictions imposed on me by the regime. I was given a freedom to choose — something that had been denied me — and to millions upon millions of people — by the Soviet regime.”
In the mid-1990s, the number of professors from prestigious schools who were prepared to come to Ukraine to teach began to rapidly shrink (there were several reasons for that — deteriorating economic situation in this country, and the subsequent lack of funds that would provide visiting professors with decent salaries being one of the sobering reasons). But by that time, the Institute whose leadership had foreseen such a development, had enough Ukrainian teachers to pick up the teaching from the foreigners. In 1997, the Institute introduced a two-year training programme for top business executives on the part-time basis — managers could acquire education and training they wanted without abandoning the jobs they had. In the daytime they could continue to run their companies, and in the evening they could attend the business management classes. With the Ukrainian economy developing at an accelerated rate and taking a pronounced market-oriented shape, it became clear that there were very few business managers who could afford to spend any time during the working day on attending classes away from their businesses and in 2000 the day-time courses for top managers were discontinued altogether.
The system of education prevalent in independent Ukraine was introduced at the Lviv Institute of Management in 1997. The Institute offers a four-year course of studies for a bachelor’s degree; one more year for a degree that is called in Ukraine “specialist’s”; another eighteen months for a master’s degree in marketing and management. The annual student enrolment is 70 people; from 30 to 40 people enrol for the studies on the part-time basis in the MBA programme.
The Lviv Institute of Management is one of the those higher-education establishments of Ukraine in which applicants’ admittance is based solely on their merits and knowledge rather than on any other considerations (unfortunately, at many state-run establishments of higher learning bribes, pulling the strings and “knowing the right people” still play a role in the admittance policies and in the further students’ progress). Petro Yanytsky, president of the Institute, never tires of emphasizing that anyone who successfully passes the entrance tests becomes a student. Transparency and legality are the order of the day, and it is very helpful for potential students who plan to go into legal business to know that no illegal means will get them through their studies.
“We are proud to say that at our Institute both the faculty and the students know that they are a team united by a common goal. In order to survive, we have to be competitive in the field of higher education and there are several factors that make us highly competitive and allow us to attract ‘customers,’ that is students. Our faculty are professionals trained in accordance with the European standards; our teaching techniques are at the cutting edge of present-day teaching methodology; our funding makes it possible for us to keep the technical side of education process up to the mark. We have created such conditions that attract the best both as far as the students and the faculty are concerned. We are confident of our future,” says president Yanytsky. “We are after quality rather than quantity. In other words, we prefer to have fewer students but give each one as much education as we can. We are for individual approach and such an approach is hardly possible to attain when there are too many students. We want to achieve excellent results, and we make sure that the course and graduation papers are pragmatically related to what real companies and organizations want. We have a centre which helps our graduates find work and then climb a career ladder. The centre sends students for training to those companies which need qualified personnel and which want to see what kind of cadre they will get in the future when the students graduate and come to work. We encourage our fourth-year students to get part-time jobs and that is why they have their classes in the afternoon rather than in the morning. And the fifth-year students studying for ‘a specialist degree,’ have their classes beginning at five pm. Most of our graduates are thus well-prepared and trained to do work which requires a high level of qualification. We keep in touch with our graduates and seek their advice as to what should be changed in the curriculum or introduced into it in order to make the transition from student to employee easier and more beneficial both for the graduate and the employer. We know that many of our graduates make good and rapid careers in business and management and it is a good indication that we have chosen a correct course.”
The present-day economic and political situation in Ukraine would not yet allow for any comparisons with the developed economies of Europe or North America. Quite often students of the Management Institute ask their professors at lectures, “How come you explain to us how things should be done to achieve economic success, but the economic progress in our own country seems to be so slow?” “We are aware, of course, that what we teach and the realities of Ukraine are two different things but the more information we provide, the better are the chances we shall get to a desirable level of ‘civilized’ business sooner rather than later. In Ukraine the basics of running and managing a business are about the same as anywhere else. Business laws are applicable universally — but the local conditions can vary. But no matter what our local Ukrainian conditions and problems may be, we are heading toward a society whose economy functions on a market principle. The better we train business managers, the easier and speedier will be the transition,” said Natalya Danylenko, professor of micro- and macroeconomics.
The Lviv Institute of Management has been training students in business management for fourteen years now. Its achievements are not confined to success in the educational field only. The Institute has become a valuable source of information about the peculiarities of the transitional phase from the planned Soviet economy to a market-oriented economy. As such, the Institute is obviously an asset for those foreign companies that are either planning to launch joint ventures in Ukraine or that are already working in Ukraine but still need more knowledge and information about the peculiarities of doing business in Ukraine.
The demand for good business management education in Ukraine is continuously on the rise. The Ukrainian businesses are increasingly aware that without knowledge based on the advances in the world’s business and management, one can hardly hope for success in the present-day highly competitive world.
The Lviv Institute of Management provides more than high-quality management education — by virtue of teaching ways of conducting legal business it creates conditions favourable for establishing the solid foundation of legal business in Ukraine.
“Everyone should decide for themselves where they should take a stand in fighting for freedom… Everywhere — even at the university, or at the theatre, there is a way of expanding frontiers of freedom,” wrote Taras Voznyak, a prominent figure in culture studies from Lviv. And the Lviv Institute of Management is making its own contribution to expanding the frontiers of freedom.
Head of the Board of Trustees of the LIM,
member of parliament of Ukraine, member of Nasha Ukrayina faction in Verkhovna Rada.
From the founders of the Lviv Institute of Management
As long ago as two and a half thousand years back Socrates said that education was of “the greatest value in the life of man and of society.” The past ten years in the Ukrainian history have been another proof of the truth expressed by the great sage. The post-Soviet times in Ukraine were the period of the old ideological values disintegrating, of new projects being conceived and disappointments following. Ukrainian society had to deal with a nagging problem of the post-Soviet mentality, with old conceptions and worldviews hindering the progress, with fear, with lack of elementary knowledge about the way the world economy functioned. Early into Ukrainian independence, we realized that we did not have forty years to be leading the Ukrainian people across the desert, and that a new generation of young managers, well-trained and educated, open-minded, with the western values on their minds was to be urgently educated and trained.
The Lviv Institute of Management has entered the third millennium having accumulated a fourteen-year working experience in the field of business education, a totally new field of studies in Ukraine. We are proud to have been the first to start working out curricula and education programmes in this sphere. Our faculty either studied or were trained in the USA, Great Britain, Germany, France, and Netherlands. Our curricula have been adapted to the Ukrainian specific conditions and our students are being taught how to conduct legal business, they learn what corporate culture and mutual advantageous competition are. We maintain fruitful contacts with many universities in the USA, Canada and Great Britain. Particularly close links have been established with University Temple in Philadelphia, Tennessee State University and the University of Manitoba. Our graduates have successful careers, becoming heads of Ukrainian private businesses, working in international projects, in representations of foreign companies and foundations in Ukraine. We believe that these young people will determine the future of Ukraine.