HAS University of Applied Sciences develops teaching concept for Ukrainian dairy sector

News 12 April 2017
Ukrainian dairy sector HAS University

"It’s clear that the Ukrainian dairy sector is still using Soviet methods. And the same goes for their education system. That’s why it’s important to educate company managers better."

HAS University of Applied Sciences recently began participating in a large project aimed at making dairy farms more sustainable. This change is necessary for the continuation of the sector, which has been struggling since the fall of the Soviet Union. The Dutch government is happy to invest in the project as it is creating opportunities for Dutch export. Moreover, there are also many Dutch citizens working in Ukraine. HAS is providing a teaching concept to educate company owners and thereby contribute to the intellectual development of the country. An interview with Frans van Leijden, Head of HAS University of Applied Sciences in Venlo and HAS lecturer, Peter Roelofs explain.

Why is it necessary to invest in the Ukrainian dairy industry?

Peter: “When the Soviet-Union collapsed in 1991, the dairy sector ended up in a huge crisis. The former collective state companies were divided among the original land owners, who only owned a small plot of land. A few of those state companies were bought by businessmen, but the companies were never modernised. And, due to the unsettled political situation, but also corruption and unstable milk prices, the sector never managed to improve.”

What does the Dutch government stand to gain by investing?

Frans: “Experts say that there is a lot of potential in the sector, and that’s why the Dutch government has chosen to invest in the Ukrainian dairy sector. There are lots of opportunities in export, for both machinery and also knowledge. Furthermore, there are lots of Dutch dairy farmers who went to Ukraine to start a company. One of them is Antoon Smits, a graduate of HAS University of Applied Sciences. He currently rents more than 5,000 hectares (12,355 acres) of land in Ukraine from a large number of land owners, each of whom he needs to stay friendly with to avoid anyone ending their agreement.”
Peter: “Difco is the company coordinating the project. Difco specialises in the development and implementation of agricultural projects in emerging markets.”

What role is HAS playing in this project and why?

Peter: “It’s clear that the Ukrainian dairy sector is still using Soviet methods. And the same goes for their education system. That’s why it’s important to educate company managers better. So we’re developing a programme based on the way we teach here at HAS in Venlo: with problem-based learning. Students learn to work independently on projects and cooperate closely with partner companies. The company managers will learn how to present themselves and manage staff. But they will also learn how to become more assertive towards their boss. We want to encourage them to try new things.”

What does the HAS stand to gain from this cooperation?

Frans: “We’re currently working on the development of the programme with 3 Ukrainian universities and a number of regional government bodies. We’re providing the concept and they implement it. Working together with partners is very valuable to us, including abroad. It generates knowledge and experience and also provides other concrete opportunities such as student and lecturer exchanges, excursions and internships. Ukraine is an interesting country from an agricultural and educational perspective: a fertile environment and one that is developing rapidly.”

What’s the time schedule?

Peter: “At the moment we’re busy developing the general outline of the programme. We need to properly research which subjects it needs to contain. The Ukrainians already know how the dairy industry works. The focus now is on learning how to improve it, make it more sustainable and look at what’s needed to achieve this. For example, particular techniques, but also the right protocols. A delegation from Dutch universities and government bodies recently visited Ukraine, and I will soon be going there myself. Cooperation is crucial as we need to translate our Dutch process into the Ukrainian way of working.”