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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President

Reforming of the Belarusian Higher School in accordance with the aims, values and main directions of the European Higher Education Area policy. Release of White Books – subject collections, devoted to the state of education in post-soviet states has already become a regular event in our neighbors. This is our first such attempt in Belarus. In our White Book we tried to present detailed analysis of the state and prospects of accession of Belarusian Higher  School to European Higher Education Area (Bologna Process).

In 2012 the attempt of Belarus to join EHEA ended with a failure. The Summit of  Ministers of Education of EHEA member-states did not consider the application of the Belarusian Ministry of Education because our higher school  does not yet meet the requirements to the candidates to join the Bologna process. The reply of the Bologna Secretariat noted that the main obstacle on the way to the EHEA is the conflict of Belarusian and European academic values.  First of all, this concerns the cases of academic freedom, level of institutional autonomy and participation of students in higher education management. As recognition of fundamental values, objectives and policies  of EHEA is the term of entering of the country into the Bologna process, it was decided to give Belarus some time to modernize the high school and to get back to the Belarusian issue during the Summit for Ministers of Education in 2015.

This White Book is the result of collective work of experts of the Independent Bologna Committee, representing a space for communication and coordination of efforts of various NGOs and independent experts, aimed at assistance to reform Belarusian higher education system.

The Independent Bologna Committee holds monitoring of the state and changes in the higher education system of our country and develops suggestions to reform the higher  school to approach the objectives, values and policies  of the European Higher Education Area. We intend to internationalize at maximum the expertise, for that we attract specialists from the “Eastern Partnership” member-states to estimate our suggestions.

The authors of this paper are united with the assurance that it is quite natural to share European academic values for all those who belonged or belong to the academic community. On the ground of such values, as academic freedom and university autonomy, we can achieve real improvement of quality and internationalization of Belarusian higher education.

Although Belarus does not exercise internationally recognized methods of quality assessment of its higher education, there are enough proofs that our higher education system needs serious reforms. Recently published report of the World Bank has demonstrated that employers in Belarus consider more than any other neighbor country the skills of employees to be the main or quite significant limiting factor of economic development. These studies prove also greater growth rate of dissatisfaction with the quality of specialists training and therefore quality of human capital than in neighbor states.

These trends of reduction of quality do not compensate with the growth of higher education availability.

The mass character of higher education conflicts more evidently with traditional model of higher school of industrial epoch.  Belarusian higher education system in recent past suggested as the reply for this challenge not decisive reformation of anachronous model, but nostalgic return to the Soviet past.

The decision of the authorities to join the European Higher Education Area could be considered as an important turn in educational policy, if that would be accompanied by a decisive withdrawal from an old architecture, objectives, and, which is important, values of the higher school. Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to estimate the results of this work unambiguously.

During the last year the Ministry of Education has managed to make a number of steps in the necessary direction. They have managed to draw together a bit Belarusian and European architectures of education.  The so-called practice-oriented master’s program has been recovered, the first grade education duration has been reduced. However, the first cycle programs represent mainly only adaptation of old programs for specialists training with reduced humanities-social block. Master’s programs in Belarus are often developed with a very narrow focus on preceding I cycle program. The third cycle programs (doctoral studies and doctoral studies level 2) at all remain out of the limits of the higher education architecture.

Used by the Belarusian higher education system concepts (module, credit, competency approach, training outcome, etc.) only in appearance resemble the Bologna glossary, and in the essence do not correspond the content of the terms, adopted in the Bologna Process. Belarusian higher school still does not implement the existing in EHEA tools, assisting transparency and mutual recognition  of a student’s studies between different institutions and national education systems, and have a core significance for the accomplishment of Bologna reforms, – such as European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS), Diploma Supplement (DS). Also does not assure to the full extent the accomplishment of competence-based approach in the development and accomplishment of educational programs.

Hard regulation of educational programs at legislative level (educational standards) up to the structure and content of curricula  does not allow to create flexible trajectories of studies, and, therefore, does not assist improvement of compatibility of Belarusian universities at European and international labor market.

Often conventional educational practice is simply transformed into the terns of the Bologna Glossary not touching upon the core of the processes. If the problem was only about misinterpretation of the Bologna tools, this would be adjustable in the process of learning events. It is worse that in many cases distortion of the sense is related to a fundamental conflict of the system of values – European and Belarusian. In our country external motivation of academic conduct considered not just more significant, than internal one, but is observed as the only possible one. That is why often conceptual shifts are motivated with the desire to preserve authoritarian management system for higher education.

The whole legislative-regulatory basis of higher education is saturated with distrust to students, academic personnel, employers. It is oriented at the use of only the tools of external higher school management.

However our objective is not a simple statement of multiple problems of Belarusian high school. We intend to outline a clear and substantiated action plan which would allow our country decisive promotion on the way of modernization of higher education system.

The Independent Bologna Committee has prepared recommendations to the Code on Education that shall allow at regulatory-legislative level not only to remove the claims on three key issues, impeding entry of Belarus into EHEA, but also to provide prerequisites of significant quality improvement of specialists training and, hence, human capital quality.

Full version of White Book can be downloaded HERE (docx).