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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President

Reviews of “Recommendations for improving the legal framework of higher school in Belarus according to the requirements for Bologna club candidates”

The Review of the document “Recommendations for improving the legal framework of higher school in Belarus according to the requirements for Bologna club candidates”

Prof. Jerzy Woźnicki

1. Introduction

The Bologna Process started in 1999 having the major objective to create a European Higher Education Area. The essence of this great project, which idea was beyond the area of European Union, is– following to the meetings and agreements between Ministries responsible for higher education – an introduction of the common frameworks to leading the study by the universities and to ensure comparability in the standards and quality of higher education qualifications.

The other aims of the Bologna Process include heading to improvement of following elements: mobility, employability and the European context of study. The instruments such as compatibility and comparability, which can be useful in order to realize these aims, were consisted of the Bologna documents such asCommuniques of Ministries and Action lines (the list enclosing in Appendix).

The initiative of forming the Bologna Process and the group of countries which signed the Bologna Declaration, which together declared to realize it, refers to basic values which are the same for the whole higher education system in the democratic countries. This values such as independence and university autonomy are included in the part of Bologna Declaration:

“ European higher education institutions, for their part, have accepted the challenge and taken up a main role in constructing the European area of higher education, also in the wake of the fundamental principles laid down in the Bologna Magna Charta Universitatum of 1988. This is of the highest importance , given that Universities’ independence and autonomy ensure that higher education and research systems continuously adapt to changing needs, societies demands and advancers in scientific knowledge. “ (…)

The governments of the participating countries ought to guarantee these values. This duty derives not only from the rules, which are the background of the democratic system and historical tradition of university, but also – following to the Bologna Declaration – from the importance to postulate the self-adaptability assessment of the system.

If we would like to comment the requirements and standards of participation in Bologna Club we must respect the main academic values in the systems of higher education i.e. academic freedom, institutional autonomy.

The reviewed document particularly refers to these issues as key for recommendations , therefore the structure of this opinion relates to that.

2. The scope and the structure of reviewed report

The subject of this review is a document entitled Recommendations for improving the legal framework of higher school in Belarus according to the requirements for Bologna club candidates, which was submitted by the Independent Bologna Committee on 29th of July 2013.

The document consists of 20 pages. The main topic of this report is the situation of higher education in Belarus. The problems, which are presented hereby are changes in higher education area, which should be introduced to the Education Code to Belarus to allow joining the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).

The report concerns three main areas, in which Belarus does not meet the requirements for candidate countries to join the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).

First of all, we should mention the situation with academic freedom, the level of institutional autonomy and participation of students in the higher education management. The authors of the recommendations would like to present that the Belarus law does not guarantee academic freedom. Freedom of teaching and learning, free expression of views, freedom of creative and research work are restricted. Moreover, the right to participate in associations, unions and other organizations, freedom of mobility and professional communication, right to participate in university government bodies are not guaranteed by law and in the statutes of the HEIs.

Secondly, the Belarus Education Code strongly restricts the academic mobility. It is also the important problem, because the international contacts between students, researchers, pedagogical workers are necessary and they give a possibility to create new ideas and to conduct international research projects.

Furthermore, the document presents also the problem of increasing of institutional autonomy which main areas are: organizational autonomy, financial autonomy, staff autonomy and academic autonomy.

The Belarusian Education Code does not contain the term “student self-government” and does not secure its legal status, jurisdiction, procedure of formation and activity regulations.

Student self-government and participation in university management are strongly limited while it is one of the requirements of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).

The report presents the possibility to change the law in Belarus. It includes the recommendations in education policy, principles of higher education management, Bologna instruments and social guarantees in higher education along with recommendation on raising of institutional autonomy, securing of academic freedom and student representation in academic bodies. All those issues should be useful for the Belarus Education Code to meet the requirements to join the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).

3. The Opinion on recommendations about guarantee of academic freedom

The basic part of the reviewed document concerns the guarantee of academic freedom, and the authors suggest some commentaries and the amendments to selected paragraphs of Education Code as well as excluding of some fragments from current regulation (e.g. “state ideology”).

To ensure fundamental rights for students, academic staff and all academics it may be appropriate to include academic self–government, which results from the suggested issues, but it isn’t explicite in the text of the Recommendations

Now we would like to come from the description of fundamental values to the body of practical regulations. The authors point out the significance of language of the Regulation (statutory formulations) whose legal power – even in case of the introduction of declared values into the legal act – in fact may be violated. For example mentioned in the document “standard syllabus” and imposed by the Ministry “text books, hard books and the other publications”, which could in practice interfere into and violate teaching freedom. According to the Europen values in the HE area the authors suggest the set (“catalogue”) of guarantees for academic rights and freedom. They relate to the academic mobility (the fundamental value in the Bologna Process), the right for free associations of professional unions, the right for free publication of results of personal scientific research (as well as the right of intellectual property protection) and also guarantees for the independent academic employement, particularly the right of academic staff to express an independent opinion about the institution or the system they work for, freedom from censorship, including free access to the information through the international computer systems and data bases which are necessary for their professional activity.

It should be suggested as well to add to these amendments the right of HEI to define its mission, which would be an exemplification of freedom and autonomy of the HEI.

This topic is an introduction to the next part of recommendations dealing with the broad spectrum of issues connected with the institutional autonomy.

4. The opinion on proposal to improve an institutional autonomy

The authors of recommendations carefully suggest, that the rule of academic autonomy is not the goal itself, but a mean to achieve the aim of missionary character. They comprehensively formulate the standards related to different types of autonomy.

It also should be noted that the principle of academic self-government seems to be sometimes debatable considering its advantages and disadvantages But the institutional autonomy should be implemented with participation of external stakeholders – people which aren’t employees of the given university, but taking part in the university governance. In this case, compliance to the academic autonomy should be regarded as a determining factor meeting the European standards in the system of higher education. The reviewed document, presenting a structure of areas of academic autonomy (through their categorization), refers accurately to the methodology of the European University Association. EUA is the leading organization in Europe which unites academic institutions of university sector. According to this, the reviewer is not obliged to analyze the methodology of this recommendation. The accuracy of this document can’t be questionable.

Referring to the content of recommendation it is necessary to underline that the election of the Rector should be taken by university assembly instead of the Senate, because He/ She should not be dependant from the Senate. The Rector should not be elected and in case of need dismissed by the Senate. The proper solution of this problem is that the Rector is elected by other than the Senate university body – alternatively:

  •  the Assembly of Electors representing the faculties and other groups of academic community,
  •  the Board of Trustees, if such kind of body is established at the university.

We mean the situation of the Rector’s dependency on the academic collegiate body, which would limit the possibility of making unpopular decisions (avoiding of so-called “over-collegiality”).

As the reviewer I would suggest mentioned changes in the recommendation.

The further part of the reviewed document refers to different aspects and types of autonomy. Many of propositions of new regulations are written clearly and with required detailes.

The vast majority of the proposed regulations cause no doubts regarding the European values. However, their detailed assessment in terms of particular formulations would require expert legislative analysis, which would be far beyond the formula of this review (2-3 pages volume).

In reference to this part of recommendation, the reviewer would like to suggest to consider the following propositions :

  •  the Rector should lead the Senate ex officio –in order to avoid the danger of diarchy.

Commentary: Senate may be led by other person than the Rector if the Senate has only the supervising tasks, but not the authoritative ones.

  •  propositions and conditions regarding the introducing of the rules of obligatory payment for full time studies by the citizens are very controversial. This problem is of strictly political character and should be recommended very carefully. The proper solution could be proposed as a rule of co-financing of studies along with the common access to the established state system of student credits and loans.
  •  there is no doubt in the rule of dean elections; however the heads of the other units, including the directors at lower level, should be nominated by the Rector following dean’s proposal after consulting the Faculty Council
  •  it should be taken under consideration whether all universities should be awarded the unlimited right to open the new fields of studies regardless of their potential, financial basis, the number of academic staff, their academic achievements and their specialties together with the position, experience and achievements of universities.
  •  according to the rules of ENQA1 and the requirements of entering the EQAR2, the Accreditation Committee must fulfill the criteria of independence from the Ministry and universities (as well as Rectors) and must not be “state-operated”, “government-operated”. This means in particular the necessity of such kind of financing from public resources which would guarantee the Committee’s independence from the Minister (and should be guaranteed by the Law )

1 ENQA – European Quality Assurance in Higher Education

2 EQAR – European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education

  •   the detailed curricula should be approved by the proper Faculty Councils; therefore the Senate should only define the required standards, rules and procedures in continuing of the academic education in particular fields. Only in case of the newly established field of study, the Senate might agree for its introduction – after detailed research of documents given by the Faculty.

Generally, other propositions do not require any comments.

5. Summary

The reviewed document is of high quality. It has been thoroughly prepared. Its structure and content meets all necessary requirements. All legislation propositions deserve appreciation for both the language and regulation aspects.

The recommendations refer to rules and key values of the Bologna Process. They identify very well, from the point of view of European values, the deficits of the Higher Education Act in Belarus.

The project of new act prepared using the recommendations (after their modification in aspects shown in this review), would enable the access of Belarus to the “Bologna Club”.

The basic task for legislators is ensuring the freedom of creativity, freedom of academic research, freedom of publishing the research results, as well as freedom of teaching for all Belarussian universities with respecting their autonomy.

The suggested recommendations could be very valuable in this respect.

Prof. Jerzy Woźnicki


Bologna Process – European Higher Education Area – main documents:

1. The Sorbonne Declaration (1998)

2. The Bologna Declaration (1999)

3. The Prague Communiqué (2001)

4. The Berlin Communiqué (2003)

5. The Bergen Communiqué (2005)

6. The London Communiqué (2007)

7. The Leuven/ Louvain-la-Neuve Communiqué (2009)

8. The Budapest-Vienna Declaration (2010)

9. The Bucharest Communiqué (2012)

10. The Bologna action lines (2005-2009)

  •  Qualifications Frameworks/ Three Cycle System
  •  Mobility
  •  Quality Assurance
  •  Employability
  •  European Higher education in Global Context
  •  Bologna Beyond 2010
  •  Joint Degrees
  •  Social Dimension
  •  Lifelong Learning
  •  Stocktaking


Review of the recommendations of the Bologna committee of the Republic of Byelorus

The recommendations of the Bologna committee of the Republic of Byelorus are supposed to initiate essential reforms in higher education system of the country and may determine the future of the Byelorussian higher education. In general the recommendations are fully in line with the Bologna ideology and should be taken into consideration in order to achieve positive results at the summit of higher education ministers in 2015 when the country’s application to join the Bologna process will be reconsidered. The authors of the recommendations focused on three main topics which are of key importance for the Bologna process: academic freedom, institutional autonomy and student participation. The authors suggest a number of important changes in the legislation of the country. Evidently, these changes will not be easy to implement; however, they are necessary in order to expand the autonomy of higher educational institutions. It’s difficult to expect any progress without implementing changes in legal acts which regulate the higher education sector in the Republic of Byelorus. After getting acquainted with the document, I can conclude that I fully agree with most of the recommendations. However, there are several things which I would like suggest for the authors of the document to discuss:

-         p. 5. the powers of the Rector should be defined by the Higher Education Law, not the university Statute. Autonomy of higher education institutions does not necessarily secure democracy inside the institution. An authoritarian Rector may concentrate too much powers if this is not regulated by the Law.

-         p. 6. the choice of candidates for the Rectors position should not be limited to three. It’s better to make several rounds of elections but not impose the limitations if there are more than three candidates.

-         p. 6. there should be at least five the members of the governing boards Three members is too small number having in mind that the governing board exercises great powers.

-         p. 7. it’s worth reconsidering whether the minimal budget period should be three years. Usually the institutions have a one-year budget.

These are minor remarks for discussion and does not diminish the overall importance of the recommended changes. Therefore in general I fully support the recommendations presented by the Bologna group.

Professor Rimantas Zelvys

Vilnius University, Lithuania

 The Review of the document “Recommendations for improving the legal framework of higher school in Belarus according to the requirements for Bologna club candidates” 

The document titled Recommendations on improvement of the legislation on higher education in Belarus in accordance to the requirements to candidates to Bologna process describes the situation in the field of higher education in Belarus in terms of prospects of entrance of the country into European Higher Education Area (EHEA).

The authors focused mostly on analysis of different types of official documents: the legislation (Educational Code of 2011, Criminal Code, presidential and governmental degrees, regulatory acts of the Ministry of Education). The array of materials used and interpreted in the report represents a sufficient database for scrupulous and adequate analysis.

The analysis itself also includes references to analytical frameworks and tools widely used in EHEA. Authors mentioned that they have referred to the methodology of European University Association (however, they did not specify it in details) to measure the level of institutional autonomy of HE institutions on Belarus. They involve 30 indicators to rank the level of autonomy in administration and governance, finances, staff and academic matters. The overall result of the study is rather shocking: the highest ranking point is 21 (out of 100), in certain cases (election and dismissal of rector) the level of autonomy is ranked as zero.

According to the report, the educational legislation in Belarus provides legal venues for many elements of the university autonomy, however, most legal norms and regulations are of rather formal nature, moreover, in many cases they practically nullified by other legal acts and regulations. For instance, some of the basic rights of representatives of academic community for freedom of expression and for establishment of professional communities is jeopardized by certain articles of Criminal Code.  As it flaws from the report, practically all areas and outlets of academic freedom and university self-governance are heavily regulated by a number of  bylaws and secondary legislation. Additionally, different ideological and political restrictions leave no room for any activity which might be considered as a genuine appearance of university autonomy. The universities exist as a state enterprises totally subjugated to the state bureaucracy.

The report provides recommendations, mostly aimed in a changes in educational legislation (Educational Code) that might improve the state of affairs in terms of introduction of basic elements of the university autonomy. The recommendations propose amendments that would provide more freedom, self-governance, transparency and self-responsibility in the universities everyday life. Some recommendations and amendments also belong to the realms of politics and human rights.

In some cases authors come to conclusion that simple introduction of certain changes to the legislation would result in dramatic changes in the level of autonomy within particular segments of university life. However, they do not explain the methods of their calculations (for instance, in the case of financial autonomy authors believe that changes proposed by them would elevate the level of autonomy in this area to 100 score points). It remains unclear from the report how they have reached this conclusion. The same applies to the issue the university competence in a staff and personnel issues.

The report represents and intellectually honest and politically courageous attempt to introduce changes in the realm which is hardly changeable. It should be considered as a challenging attempt to start actions in the field which at the moment can be changed mostly through external pressure. The report is just the first step: it provides accurate formulations of the basic problems and outlines systems of measurable indicators and benchmarks of possible progress. It opens opportunity for further discussions and proposes initial steps (changes in basic legislation). It should serve as a basis for further work on policy recommendations. That should include changes in bylaws and legislation which has no direct relevance to education but stipulates different important areas of societal importance (employment and property relations for instance), elaboration and legitimization of mechanism of implementation of recommendations, bureaucratic procedures.

Prof. Georgiy Kasianov

Head, Department of Contemporary History and Politics

Institute of the History of Ukraine


Education Program

International Renaissance Foundation


The need  for a new program for developing higher education in Belarus stems from the fact that the existing regulations  as well as the real situation in higher education  in the country have  to be  renewed to correspond to the general European rules – first of all, to the documents elaborated in the Bologna process. The authors of the program have concentrated on three main points:  1) academic freedom, 2) the level of institutional autonomy,  3) participation of students in university management.  There is no doubt that these are t h e points which have to be taken most seriously if a European university is the goal that has to be reached. One cannot imagine a European university in which students and professors  cannot travel  freely; members of the academic community cannot  express freely their ideas and views; students have no say in what and how is taught.

For measuring the level  of independence  of particular universities, the methodology elaborated by European University Association was used which permitted the authors to compare  data on the institutional autonomy of  Belarus universities  with that in other  countries. The data  collected permitted to give specific  recommendations about how to  increase    the organisational autonomy of Belarus universities from  the present 24  points to 91 (out of 100 possible).

Methodological  richness is characteristic for the program in general.   It can be used, of course,   by  particular countries, but it can also be used by particular universities, and by everybody interested  in thinking about  higher education in general.  Belarus educationalists offer here a valuable tool for all these purposes.

Quite differently from most official documents in all countries,  the Program has been  written in human language.

After public discussion, the Program  certainly can  served as base for reforming higher education  in Belarus.

Peeter Tulviste, PhD

Professor of Cultural Psychology, University of Tartu

Rector of University of Tartu, 1993-1998

July 20, 2013