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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President

The main outcome of 2021 was the approval of the new edition of the Education Code, which was supposed to create the basis for the Bologna reforms. Positive changes in the Code include the enshrinement of the norm of adding "Diploma Supplement" to the diploma in accordance with the European model after more than 10 years of promising. This is the only Bologna commitment that has been fulfilled almost fully.

Below we cite the selected parts of our analytical report, you can download the full report by clicking here.

The structure of higher education was not adapted to the three-level Bologna architecture. Despite the recent attempts by the Ministry of Education to include postgraduate studies in the system of higher education, it was not incorporated in the Code. There is no progress with the incorporation of such a Bologna instrument as ECTS. Without this, neither international mobility, nor elective courses and individual educational trajectories have an assured basis. There is also no progress with the implementation of an independent system for ensuring the quality of education in the Code. Moreover, instead of the promised quality assurance agency independent of the Ministry of Education, the “National Agency for Higher Education Quality Assurance” was founded, which is even more dependent on the ministry.

The social dimension of higher education has not been improved either by the updated system of facilitating the employment of graduates, or by the instruments of inclusiveness. The system of compulsory work placement was strengthened and expanded instead. It has already left the boundaries of the budget student contingent. The Code also effectively enshrines a very narrow understanding of inclusiveness, limited to the people with disabilities. The most important goal of educational policy - ensuring the accessibility of higher education for all vulnerable groups - was demonstratively removed from strategic documents. It is not included in the Concept for the Development of the Education System of the Republic of Belarus until 2030. It is not in the Code either.

In terms of academic values, there is hardly any progres. The principles of state educational policy still do not include: preservation, popularization and development of national culture; autonomy of educational institutions and academic freedom principles; social partnership in education. On the other hand, the repressive mechanisms in educational legislation have been significantly strengthened. There are now articles in the Code that call for persecution for any manifestation of protest, punishing or restricting the rights of those who have already been punished in an administrative or criminal framework. Educational policy is dominated by the objective of building an educational framework alternative to that of EHEA, focused on integration with the eastern neighbors who share common political imperatives and skepticism towards European academic values with Belarus. The fact that Belarus is building a system of state ideological and administrative dominance in the education system, incompatible with the EHEA, invalidates to some extent even those few Bologna instruments that have already been formally enshrined in legislation.

2. Quality assurance

“Based on the fact that the Republic of Belarus has developed a concept for the formation of a national independent quality assurance system for higher education, up until the year 2020 steps will be taken to improve the procedures for internal higher education quality assurance in all HEIs and to develop a regulatory infrastructure to aid the functioning of the independent agency for quality assurance in order to fully ensure the functionality of the national independent quality assurance agency by 2022.”

In the 2022 Code, CHAPTER 13 CONTROL AND SELF-CONTROL OF EDUCATION QUALITY ASSURANCE, including Article 116 “Education quality assurance” and Article 117 “Self-control of education quality”, has not undergone noticeable changes in comparison with the 2011 Code. Article 116 states that “Education quality assurance” is still the responsibility of the authorized supervisory bodies (structural units with the status of a legal entity established by the Ministry of Education, local executive and administrative bodies) and does not mention an option of creating an independent agency for quality assurance.

In December 2021, the Decree No. 693 of December 4, 2021 “On the establishment of the state institution “National Agency for Quality Assurance in Education” (hereinafter referred to as the Decree) was adopted by the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus (source). In accordance with the Decree the Government ratified the establishment of the National Agency for Education Quality Assurance by the Ministry of Education. It was established (point 2 of the Decree) that “the National Agency is subordinate to the Ministry of Education; The National Agency is headed by a Director appointed and dismissed by the Minister of Education.

And, according to the above, in the Code 2022, Article 101 “Powers of the Ministry of Education in the education field” establishes a right of the Ministry of Education to exercise “... control over ensuring the quality of education, through its structural division with the rights of a legal entity”.

On February 2, 2022, the grand opening of the state institution "National Agency for Quality Assurance in Education" took place. The institution allegedly establishes a new structure in the education system of the republic, when in reality it is not an independent agency, but, perhaps, is simply a renamed Department of Quality Control of Education, which is subordinate to the Ministry of Education.

Thus, the Code 2022 did not provide a legal basis for the creation of an independent education quality control agency.


4. Instruments for ensuring transparency

4.1 “Since 2013, the Republic of Belarus has been implementing a system of national credit units based on ECTS. With this in mind, measures will be taken by 2020 to implement this system in accordance with the revised ECTS users’ manual.

Compared to the previous Code 2011 (Article 89. Educational process), the Code 2022 (paragraph 4 of Article 81. Educational process) provides that “4. To determine the structure of educational programs of higher education, educational programs for retraining of management personnel and specialists with higher education, educational programs for the retraining of management personnel and specialists with secondary specialized education, and to determine their labor intensity, a system of credits is used and a system of academic hours can be used.

Also, in paragraph 3 of this article, a definition of a credit unit is given, - “A credit unit is a numerical way of expressing the volume of educational activity of a student, trainee, cadet in the process of classroom work, independent work, practice, internship.”. However, it does not fully comply with the ECTS Users' Guide 2015, as it does not contain correlation with learning outcomes.

It is difficult to assess the implementation of this Strategic Plan item, because as of the end of 2021, there is an Instruction in place for calculating the labor intensity of higher education educational programs using the credit system (hereinafter referred to as the Instruction), approved by the Minister of Education of the Republic of Belarus on April 6, 2015. Neither the new edition nor the approved changes to the Instruction in accordance with the ECTS users’ guide 2015 were found in the public domain (including the website of the Ministry of Education, NIHE). The information on improving the regulatory support of the national system of credits could not be found either..

Moreover, the Code 2022 does not fully ensure the fulfillment of obligations to implement a credit system that complies with the ECTS Users' Guide for the purposes of designing and implementing curricula and for the purposes of diversifying and developing academic mobility.

4.2 “Particular attention will be paid to learning outcomes, curriculum development and implementation, as well as to the evaluation and opportunities for academic mobility programs realization. This process will be based on the results of the Erasmus+ project “Development of competencies in higher education in Belarus (FOSTERC)”, project Ref. 574087-EPP-1-2016-1-ES-EPPKA2-CBHE-SP."

According to the information provided on the website http://edustandart.by/, as of 2020 and 2021, the development and adoption of new educational standards and curricula of the 3+ generation for I and II levels of higher education, involving the competence-based approach and learning outcomes, continued in Belarus. The layouts of educational standards were improved and the drafts of the indicated educational materials posted on this website were discussed. (source 1, source 2). However, there is inconsistency in the terminology used in the NQF, in the layouts of educational standards, and now in the Code 2022.

Lists of universal competencies for I level higher education and master’s studies were also developed (source as of 14.12.2020), but without official approval details.

In accordance with clause 1.4. Work Plan 2020, a draft Guidelines for the Application of Professional Standards in the Development of Educational Programs for Higher Education was developed, which should regulate the use of professional standards in the development of educational programs of higher education (source). To date, this document has not been approved.

A draft Guidelines for the assessment and accounting of learning outcomes for institutions of higher education has been developed. It should regulate the procedure for assessing and accounting of learning outcomes during transfer and reinstatement, return from academic leave, enrollment for a second and subsequent higher education degree, and academic mobility. For the first time, the document mentions development of a personalized (i.e. individual) curriculum, which would determine a particular student’s individual trajectory for mastering the core curriculum of a specialty (source as of April 21, 2020). The approved document could not be found on the websites of the Ministry of Education, NIHE Bologna process, or anywhere else in the public domain.

Thus, it can be noted that the activities to fulfill the obligations of the Strategic Plan are still mostly project-based. The regulatory documents are not being approved or enacted. The results of this work are not reflected in the law and they often contradict the norms of the new edition of the Education Code.

4.3 “A legal framework will be developed for the release of a free and multilingual Diploma Supplement in a format approved by the Council of Europe, the European Commission, UNESCO (also in digital format) for all students.

"International experts/consultants, including the World Bank, will be invited to report on the transition to a digital Diploma Supplement."

Paragraph two, clause 14, Article 90 of the Code 2022 “Education documents” provides that “Along with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, diploma supplements are granted in accordance with the European Diploma Supplement model, which are invalid without a corresponding education document.”

Paragraph two, clause 15, Article 90 “Documents on education” indicates that “Supplements to a bachelor's and a master's degree are issued in Belarusian, Russian and English in accordance with the European Diploma Supplement model.”

Thus, in Code 2022, the obligation to ensure the issuance of the Diploma Supplement is partially fulfilled. However, the automatic and free-of-charge receipt of the Diploma Supplement is not guaranteed in the Code.

As for the development and implementation of a European model Diploma Supplement, according to the previously submitted plans and reports, work was carried out jointly by BSU, NIHE and other institutions. However, no visible outcomes of this work were recorded: neither the project, nor the suggestions on the layout of the multilingual European model Diploma Supplement (including in digital form) nor the concept could be found on the websites of the Ministry of education, NIHE Bologna process or anywhere else in the public domain.


7. Fundamental values ​​of the EHEA

In 2018, at the Ministerial Summit in Paris, the Strategic Action Plan for the achievement of the main goals for education system development in accordance with the principles and instruments of the European Higher Education Area proposed by the Belarusian Ministry of Education was adopted. It outlined a new schedule for fulfilling obligations to reform higher education, also in terms of implementation of fundamental academic values.

Since the annual work plan for the implementation of the Strategic Plan in 2021 did not contain items that could be correlated with the measurable indicators of fulfilling the obligations of section 6 of the Strategic Plan, the outcomes in 2021 can only be assessed in terms of bringing closer the completion of the basic tasks of the Strategic Plan.

Of the tasks announced in 2018, one item was formally completed. The Strategic Plan contained an obligation, which called for the establishment of a procedure for nominating candidates for the post of HEI rector on a competitive basis in the English version (Article 203 of the draft Code on Education, Law of the Republic of Belarus 154-Z of January 14, 2022. National Legal Internet Portal of the Republic of Belarus, 31.01 .2022, 2/2874). In the Russian version, this provision was rendered in a way that this item did not bring universities closer to the election of rectors, and only related to the nomination of candidates for appointment to this position in the same manner as before. It is the Russian version of the item that is enshrined in the new version of the Code (Article 204 Law of the Republic of Belarus 154-Z of January 14, 2022. National Legal Internet Portal of the Republic of Belarus, 01/31/2022, 2/2874).

A peculiarity of 2021 was an unambiguous turn from the strategy of selective, contradictory and inconsistent implementation of some of the academic imperatives of the EHEA to a decisive implementation of an alternative system of goals in higher education. A course was taken for complete ideological and administrative control over all aspects of higher education.

Education is subject to the priority task of patriotic upbringing. It is based on the Program of Patriotic Education of the Population of Belarus for 2022-2025, approved by the Council of Ministers on December 29, 2021 (Decree No. 773). The development of this program is explained by geopolitical challenges and the need to strengthen the state sovereignty and national security.

The Republican Interdepartmental Coordinating Council for Patriotic Education of the Population of Belarus was created, headed by Deputy Head of the President's Office Igor Lutsky. In accordance with the objectives of patriotic education, the content of curricula and textbooks at all levels of education is being updated.

The Code significantly strengthens the monopoly role of state ideology and the responsibility of everyone in the educational process to follow it. The principle is proclaimed: “the school cannot be outside of politics. But there should be only one policy - the state one" (source A. Lukashenko. Participation in the Republican Pedagogical Council August 23-24, 2021)

In Grodno State University named after Yanka Kupala on June 11, 2021, the Republican Council of Rectors of HEIs took place: “On improving ideological and upbringing work with students in institutions of higher education". The Council of Rectors stated that to achieve these goals, a regulatory framework and relevant infrastructure have been created, also personnel, scientific and methodological support has been provided. The work of the Belarusian Republican Youth Union, student self-government bodies, volunteer centers, etc is also aimed at ideological education.

In institutions of higher education, according to press reports, vice-rectors for security and personnel have been appointed. Information about them is not publicly available. But according to the documents discovered by the journalists, their responsibilities include “organizing work with state secrets, taking measures to ensure information security, coordinating with law enforcement agencies, identifying, preventing and suppressing actions that may threaten the safety of university employees” and many others. Apparently, it is they who play a key role in carrying out the state personnel policy in universities. Heads of universities and faculties are still being replaced. Even quite loyal non-governmental public organizations have been liquidated, and state control over the Belarusian Republican Youth Union and other subordinated student associations has been further strengthened. The new version of the Education Code significantly limits public organizations’ access to the education system and constrains the parents’ influence on the educational process.

The Code significantly strengthens the repressive mechanism of educational legislation. Articles have appeared that persecute any manifestation of protest, additionally punish or restrict the rights of those who have already been penalized under administrative or criminal law.

The grounds for expelling students (Art. 68) include:

5.18.1. absence from classes due to serving an administrative penalty in the form of administrative arrest;

as well as participation in strikes or other forms of protest at the university:

5.18.2. taking actions that hinder with other participants of the educational process from fulfilling their duties and exercising their rights in the field of education;

5.18.3. calling upon students to disregard their duties.

In accordance with Article 51, when hiring professors, employers are obliged to request information about the persons they are signing a contract with from the unified state data bank on offenses, unexpunged and unserved convictions, and in cases provided for by legislative acts, on crimes committed by them, even if the criminal record was served or expunged or terminated on the grounds provided for in clauses 3 or 4 of paragraph 1, Article 29 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Republic of Belarus. Such information is provided without the consent of the persons in question.

The updated internal regulations of educational institutions prohibit any unauthorized actions and statements. Responsibility for statements that can be interpreted as discrediting Belarus is criminalized, and the Ministry of Education is one of the entities responsible for countering extremism (new edition of the Law "On Countering Extremism").

Contrary to the recommendations of the Council of Europe ( Rec/ CV(2012 )7 ), the Code retains all norms of discrimination against private HEIs and their students.

A logical continuation of the policy and consequence of the “reset” of the education system is adjustment of the social composition of the student body by stimulating and expanding the quotas for contract allocation at all levels of vocational education and creating more favorable conditions for loyal groups of the population to enroll into universities. So far, attempts to develop a contract recruitment system have had neither much success nor employer support. The new measures focus more on the political aspects of this mechanism (“dedicated personnel”). In the past, the authorities tried to pursue a policy of supporting certain social groups: people with disabilities, orphans, and rural youth. But in recent years, this topic has not appeared in the strategic documents. And inclusion has shrunk to support for persons with disabilities, and not even in the higher education framework. In the new version of the Code, graduates of sports-pedagogical and military-patriotic oriented classes, children of military personnel, of employees of internal affairs bodies who died or became disabled in the line of duty will enjoy priority rights when entering institutions of higher education.

Thus, the goals and objectives set by the Strategic Action Plan in 2018 no longer determine the strategy for changing the value system of higher education. The regulatory framework formed in 2021 clearly indicates a different, alternative vector for the development of educational policy in Belarusian higher education.


Belarus, which formally joined the European Higher Education Area with great effort in 2015, in 2021 has clearly changed the development vector of higher education. The educational policy is dominated by the objective of building a cooperation zone alternative to the European Higher Education Area and aimed at integration with the eastern neighbors, who share common political imperatives and skepticism regarding European academic values with Belarus . Building its own system of state ideological and administrative dominance in the education system, incompatible with the EHEA, changes the meaning of even those few Bologna instruments that have already been formally enshrined in legislation. The inevitable (in such circumstances) mutual curtailment and limitation of academic cooperation between universities and state institutions of Belarus and the EU does not leave hope for the implementation of the initial goals of the Roadmap for Belarus to reform the higher education system adopted in 2015 and the Strategic Action Plan for the implementation of the main educational system development goals in accordance with the principles and instruments of the European Higher Education Area approved in 2018.

The new edition of the Education Code adopted by the National Assembly in 2021 and approved on January 14, 2022, made it clear that the attempts to enshrine even the meager progress in Bologna instruments implementation were abandoned. The legislative base of higher education has become even more conservative and at the same time internally contradictory. Interdepartmental contradictions became even clearer, and the regulatory framework of higher education, as a result, became even less coordinated and efficient.

You can download the full report by clicking here.