Adapting Management Education in Post-Soviet Countries-The Case of Ukraine

By Hawrylyshyn, Bohdan; Khassan-Bek, Lina | European Business Forum, Autumn 2002 | Go to article overview
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Adapting Management Education in Post-Soviet Countries-The Case of Ukraine

Hawrylyshyn, Bohdan, Khassan-Bek, Lina, European Business Forum

As the first of the post-Soviet countries to have its own MBA, the Ukraine has realised the need to import Western-style management techniques. The challenge for business schools is finding people who can integrate their knowledge of open market economies into a Ukranian context.


In the centrally planned, state-administered economies of the Soviet era there were no managers in the sense that Westerners understand the term. There were heads of production enterprises, who were given plans from the central planning authority on what and how much to produce, but they had no responsibility for strategy formulation, finance, marketing, or purchasing and only partial responsibility for people.

The heads of distributing enterprises and the universal stores also had narrowly defined roles. And given the fact that, for most of the Soviet period, consumer goods were in short supply and of limited assortment, they did not even have a real marketing function.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union the need to educate people for a full spectrum of responsibilities was, therefore, particularly urgent. New managers had to learn how to formulate strategies of what to produce for whom, create a capital structure, make investment decisions, market their products, establish a chain of suppliers, and train personnel. All this needed to be done while the existing economic system was disintegrating, and the semblance of a market system was painfully emerging.

The first management school to be established was the International Management Institute (IMI-Kyiv) in Ukraine. It was founded in 1988/1989 in anticipation of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the expected emergence of independent countries. It was done as a joint venture between the then International Management Institute--Geneva (later merged with IMEDE in Lausanne and now known as IMD) and the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. The first post-graduate, post-experience, MBA programme began on 2nd January 1990, nearly two years before Ukraine became an independent country.

Because the school was the first to be established on Soviet territory and a model for others created later in Ukraine, Russia and other Newly Independent States, this article draws heavily on IMI-Kyiv's experience.

Adapting Western management education to Ukraine's conditions

There are two broad categories of management know-how: the universally valid and the 'culturally' conditioned. Double entry bookkeeping, invented in Florence centuries ago, is an example of a technique that can be used anywhere. "Culturally" conditioned know-how, meanwhile, is that part which is influenced, indeed moulded, by political, legislative, juridical, economic systems, and specific business conditions. In dealing with the management of people, for instance, it is the traditions, the dominant values in a society, the typical behaviour of people that determine the effectiveness of a management style. Applicants to MBA programmes in Ukraine do not have sufficient understanding of religious, philosophical, and ethical concepts of an open society with the result that the curriculum had to be much broader than in Western business schools.

Unlike the graduates of Western business schools, two thirds of whom (according to a survey published in the ESCP-EAP News--No. 3, 2002) are hired by companies employing 2,000 people or more. IMI-Kyiv graduates follow different paths. Some are already owners of small companies, others set out to create new companies, still others work for joint ventures and foreign companies operating in Ukraine. MBA programmes thus need to focus on entrepreneurial issues and on how to start, to adopt and to develop a business in an unstable environment.

There has been little predictability in Ukraine over the past decade. It is going through a transformation of its political, economic and social systems, which implies changes, reversals, incompatibilities.

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