Interview with Rostyslav Kryzhanivskyi
"We will be able to change our society through our graduates"
Interview with Rostyslav Kryzhanivskyi, rector of the Christian Open University of Economy and Humanitarian Sciences in southern Ukrainian Odesa
– Can you tell briefly about the history of the establishment of the Christian University in Odesa? What are the prospects for a student who wants to study in this institution?
– Our university was established in 1997 by Evangelical Baptist pastors from the Peresypska Church in Odesa and professors from Moscow and Odesa who were interested in the development of higher Christian education in Ukraine. In 1998, the university had its first admissions.
We know that similar universities exist in Russia, in Ukraine, namely in Kyiv and Donetsk, but they differ from the university in Odesa, because they are only focused on religious instruction. They do not offer secular education, which, we believe, is a great loss.
The most important goal of our university is a united community of instructors and students. This is outlined in our statutes. We have been founded for the self-education of our members.
Self-education differs from regular education. We are open not only to believers, but to non-believers as well. In addition, we have fewer theoretical classes and spend more time working with textbooks and manuals. Moreover, every student receives his own textbook on methods for every course he takes.
Classes are conducted in a variety of forms, including training, tutorials, practical classes and discussion of the material for home study, which a student can do using our syllabi.
There are hundreds of Christian universities throughout the world today. They are famous for the high level of education. Among the world's leading universities, Christian universities such as Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, Yale and others, rank top ten. Therefore, we believe that our model of education is more democratic.
The university's instructors can feel how effectively they work with students. We can also make amendments in the syllabus in the course of studies. A student is free to approach the rector and express his opinion on the methods of teaching or concerning a particular subject.
Today, Odesa is home to a great number of highly qualified professors and instructors who would like to teach in our university. However, we hire only those who adhere to Christian morals.
– After a student graduates from the department of journalism of your university, for instance, can he only work in the field of Christian journalism or is he trained to work in secular journalism as well?
– As a rule, our students have a choice. And they have proper training as well. As for journalism, in addition to Christian journalists we also train journalists who can work in the fields of psychology, economics, and law. Regardless of their major, however, all students must take advanced courses in Christianity, including ethics, world outlook and bible studies. We prepare people with a proper worldview, which is the Christian worldview.
– Is the university funded by donors or do students pay tuition fees?
– Our statutes allow for voluntary donations, which are necessary for the university to operate. We also advise our students to look for sponsors. Religious students receive help from their churches or missionaries. There are many cases when people of good will pay tuition fees for some students.
Anyone acquainted with the economics of education would be surprised that our university still continues to develop. This is only due to the first-rate economists who help us use existing resources most effectively.
– Do you have any support from the state?
– Our university is well known in many countries of the world, both in Europe and America. Different churches support us with their prayers. As long as we realize that our work is vitally important for the state, we are disappointed to receive no support from state authorities.
Misunderstanding remains. Our conviction that higher educational institutions in Ukraine need reformation causes us many problems. We believe that we should strive for Western and international standards in education. The first response from the authorities was sad. National security officers and representatives of the regional departments of education and justice visited the university. They told us that we work illegally, even though our statutes were approved by the department of justice and correspond to Ukrainian legislation.
[Editor's note: See http://www.risu.org.ua/article.php?sid=547&l=en, an article reprinted from a Keston News Service story of 11 November 2002, for more information on this issue.]
For more than a year now we have felt pressure from various bodies that continually fail in their efforts to prove that our activities contradict Ukrainian laws.
We are not governed by the Ministry of Education of Ukraine. But in a civilized country a free man should enjoy his freedom, because Ukrainian legislation allows for the establishment of civil universities with tax-exempt status.
We believe that if Ukrainian society accepts the Christian worldview, it will get rid of many evil things that are taking place today, like the theft of state property, bribery and corruption. Ukraine would have a different image in the world if most people had a Christian education. We will be able to change our society through our graduates.
Interviewed conducted in Odesa on 3 March 2003
by Ihor STOLIAROV