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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President

The experts of the Belarusian Independet Bologna Committee has prepared the second White Book on Belarusain higher education. The analysis structure and methodology in the White Book follow the structure and methodology of the Implementation Report.

In 2011, preceding consideration of Belarus’ application to join the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), the Independent Bologna Committee, an initiative which included independent experts and civil society organisations interested in practical implementation of the Bologna Process values and tools in the national higher education system, was established in Minsk. In cooperation with the Belarusian National Platform of the European Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF) and in dialogue with European organisations and institutions, the IBC monitors modernisation of the Belarusian higher education system and advocates the interests of higher education stakeholders successfully using such tools as alternative reports, monitoring reports, policy papers, and recommendations.

In 2013, we prepared the first White Book. Reforming of the Belarusian Higher School in accordance with the aims, values and main directions of the European Higher Education Area policy in which we attempted to answer the question to what extent the Belarusian governmental education policy is compatible with the EHEA development strategy. However, our objective is not simply to state numerous problems of the Belarusian higher education system. We strive to outline a clear and well-founded action plan, which would enable our country to move forward along the path of modernising the higher education system decisively.

In 2015, Belarus was accepted to the EHEA upon undertaking to reform its higher education system according to the Roadmap. By 2018, the new Bologna architecture, other EHEA tools and values should have been formalised in the Belarusian laws. As our monitoring and the final report of the Bologna advisory group demonstrate, Belarus has not been able to make any significant progress in the Roadmap implementation. However, it is possible to understand the real condition of the Belarusian higher education system and its European prospects only in comparison with other EHEA members, their achievements and problems. In reality, implementation of the EHEA policy declared by ministerial summits, in various countries is not always successful and not equally successful in all aspects. The 2018 Implementation Report prepared for the Paris summit distinctly demonstrates this. he Ministry of Education of Belarus has provided some information for the report. However, as our analysis demonstrates, this information is incomplete and at times not absolutely reliable. he Independent Bologna Committee has prepared the second White Book European Prospects of the Belarusian Higher Education, which fills the gaps of the official report by the Ministry of Education and permits to compare Belarus’ implementation of the Bologna tools and principles with the situation in other EHEA countries.

The analysis structure and methodology in the White Book follow the structure and methodology of the Implementation Report (2018 IR) mostly to ensure maximum comparability of the results. In a number of sections of the White Book, we used other international and European databases as well, for comparative analysis of the value dimension of higher education in particular.

In some cases, comparative analysis becomes difficult because of significant differences in the statistical values calculated or of the lack of information in public access. he Belarusian higher education system lacks transparency. In recent years, its transparency has decreased. However, without rejecting critical assessment of the situation with the reforms of the Belarusian higher education system, the authors of the White Book considered it their duty to record positive changes in the educational policy and academic practice, and to appreciate the European prospects of the Belarusian higher education system in the challenges it faces.

The paper was prepared by a group of authors: the introduction was prepared by Vladimir Dounaev and Irina Dounaeva; chapter 1 by Vladimir Dounaev; chapters 2 to 5 by Olga Kryzhanovskaya; chapter 6 by Siarhei Vetokhin; chapter 7 by Andrei Laurukhin; chapter 8 by Pavel Tereshkovich; the conclusion by Vladimir Dounaev. The analysis of the regulatory framework was provided by Aleh Hrableuski.




Belarusian Independent Bologna Committee (BIBC) and Ad Hoc Commission of Belarusian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF) continue to monitor the  implementation of the EHEA tools in the higher education system by Belarusian authorities. 

In 2018 Belarusian Ministry of Education was able to make a number of milestone decisions in pursuance of Work Plan implementation, which had been postponed for a long time pending the approval of new Education Code. In particular, this is linked to slowly expanding academic autonomy of Belarusian higher education institutions (Educational Standards_3+).


However, the Work Plan 2018 tasks and targets were not ambitious and could not instigate significant reformof the higher education system. Despite this fact, even the modest tasks were not implemented in full. At the same time, it is important to note the implemenation of Bologna tools and values has not (yet) been supported within the highest political circles. President Alexander Lukashenko has repeatedly expressed doubts about benefits of Bologna process for Belarusian higher education.


The 2018 Work Plan implementation did not require amending legislation in general and still number of tasks remained to be done. In particular, the provisions on Belarusian education system transparency (Launching the information Internet portal/website raising awareness of a wide scope of stakeholders about the processes of the higher education system in the Republic of Belarus development and Bologna tools implementation; launching English language version of Belarus-ENIC website). The low level of transparency does not allow for obtaining the information on implementation of some of the 2018 Work Plan provisions. There is no publicly available information, or it is incomplete, or it is published with delays. Thus, transparency remains a challenge to which Belarusian higher education system is not able to answer yet.


Furthermore, Bologna reforms envisaged by Strategic Action Plan will require amendments to the Education Code. However, according to the Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus from 4 January 2019 “On adopting the plan for preparing bills in 2019”, the adoption of the new Education Code is not listed in the legislative plan. In addition,there is also information from the Commission for education, culture, and science of the National Assembly’s House of Representatives that draft Education Code has not been passed onto them for review so far. As a result, the lack of legislative initiative can block the implementation of a number of Strategic plan provisions in the future.


The implementation of social dimension of higher education and fundamental academic values has not been reflected in Belarusian Ministry of Education plans in a way it was specified in Council of Europe Recommendations and EHEA Summits’ Communiqués.


The Belarusian government’s education policy aims at restructuring professional education by decreasing the higher education - proportion. However, this strategy doesn’t address the inclusiveness issues of higher education system. Higher education accessibility for underrepresented groups – will not? not improve and could even deteriorate due to removal of some of the old instruments enabling underrepresented groups to access higher education programmes. In addition, such approach is also not in compliance with the new European mechanisms of ensuring inclusivity.


The new annual Work Plans for implementing Strategic plan provisions should include detailed actions on Council of Europe Recommendations Rec/CM(2012)7 implementationt and introduce measurable indicators for increasing inclusiveness of Belarusian higher education.



With the debate on the future of Europe in full swing, the European Commission is today setting out its vision for how we can create a European Education Area by 2025.


The ideas formulated are intended as a contribution to the EU Leaders' meeting on 17 November 2017 in Gothenburg, where they will discuss the future of education and culture. The Commission believes that it is in the shared interest of all Member States to harness the full potential of education and culture as drivers for job creation, economic growth and social fairness as well as a means to experience European identity in all its diversity.

A European Area of Education should include:

  • Making mobility a reality for all: by building on the positive experiences of the Erasmus+ programme and the European Solidarity Corps and expanding participation in them as well as by creating an EU Student Card to offer a new user-friendly way to store information on a person's academic records;
  • The mutual recognition of diplomasby initiating a new 'Sorbonne process', building on the "Bologna process", to prepare the ground for the mutual recognition of higher education and school leaving diplomas;
  • Greater cooperation on curricula development: by making recommendations to ensure education systems impart all the knowledge, skills and competences that are deemed essential in today's world;
  • Improving language learning: by setting a new benchmark for all young Europeans finishing upper secondary education to have a good knowledge of two languages in addition to their mother tongue(s) by 2025;
  • Promoting lifelong learning: by seeking convergence and increasing the share of people engaging in learning throughout their lives with the aim of reaching 25% by 2025;
  • Mainstreaming innovation and digital skills in education: by promoting innovative and digital training and preparing a new Digital Education Action Plan;
  • Supporting teachers: by multiplying the number of teachers participating in the Erasmus+ programme and eTwinning network and offering policy guidance on the professional development of teachers and school leaders;
  • Creating a network of European universities so that world-class European universities can work seamlessly together across borders, as well supporting the establishment of a School of European and Transnational Governance;
  • Investing in education: by using the European Semester to support structural reforms to improve education policy, using EU funding and EU investment instruments to fund education and setting a benchmark for Member States to invest 5% of GDP in education.
  • Preserving cultural heritage and fostering a sense of a European identity and culture: by developing – using the momentum of the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage – a European Agenda for Culture and preparing a Council Recommendation on common values, inclusive education and the European dimension of teaching.
  • Strengthening the European dimension of Euronews, which was created in 1993 by a number of European public broadcasters, with the ambition of having a European channel offering access to independent, high quality information with a pan-European perspective.  

Full text of the press release is available on the European Commission website

The memo On maintaining BFUG special procedure to monitor the implementation of EHEA values and instruments and supporting civil society participation was prepared by the Belarusian Independent Bologna Committee and the Ad Hoc Committee of the Belarusian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum on the ocasion of the BFUG meeting on September 27, 2018. 

Full text of the Memo in PDF (English)

Belarus is still in need of special Bologna Follow-Up Group (BFUG) assistance. It is the only country that joined the Bologna process in 2015, after European Higher Education Area (EHEA) was already well-established and functioning. Belarus’ admission to the Bologna process was conditional: subsequently, Belarus Roadmap for Higher Education Reform was drafted and a special implementation monitoring procedure, Advisory Group on Support for the Belarus Roadmap (AG2) was launched. AG2 mandated that the roadmap is to be implemented – with progress report due in time for 2018 EHEA (European Higher Education Area) Ministerial Conference in Paris (24-25 May 2018). Its aim was to assist Belarus in modernising its higher education system.

The AG2 final report acknowledges that the Belarusian government had achieved very limited progress in the implementation of the roadmap. Faced with the objective assessment by AG2 experts, as well as infavourable position of EHEA members, the Belarusian government had to agree to an extension of the roadmap. The resulted in the Draft strategic action plan on implementation of the major objectives of the education system development in line with the EHEA principles and tool, which outlines its further steps. The draft action plan is mentioned in the final communiqué of the EHEA Ministerial Conference. 

At the same time, there is no final decision on whether to retain the special monitoring procedure for Belarus, similar to the AG2 mandate. There is a strong need to maintain a special procedure in place. Based on previous experience, the Belarusian side is not able to assess its own progress in meeting set obligations. It is also not very effective in using the expertise, and experience, of other EHEA member states to resolve challenges pertinent to the Belarusian higher education system. This lack of capacity was particularly evident in the information submitted by Belarus to The European Education Area in 2018: Bologna Process Implementation Report, which proved to be incorrect. The erroneous information dealt with the implementation of Bologna instruments, and the process in which EHEA fundamental values are being incorporated into the Belarusian higher education system. 

In our view, the most significant omissions in the information presented by the Belarusian officials in The European Education Area in 2018: Bologna Process Implementation Report concern the following:

1. Bologna architecture

In Belarus, the third cycle of higher education (doctoral programmes) is not integrated into the national system. Nevertheless, the country is included in EHEA statistics – related to the duration of third cycle programmes, as shown in the Bologna Process Implementation Report, Figure 3.12. In order to integrate its higher education system, and include all three cycles under the same umbrella, Belarus must make changes to current legislation, which would allow for this to happen. Only then, post-graduate, or doctoral, programmes could be incorporated in the higher education system.

2. ECTS Implementation 

At present, Belarus does not use European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS), (Bologna Process Implementation Report, Figure 2.3) in its higher education system. Regardless of this fact, Figures 2.4 and 2.5 show Belarus in the group of countries, in which all institutions of higher education use ECTS – in both first and second cycle of high education.

3. Quality Assurance 

Belarus exaggerated the level of openness in its quality assurance system to foreign quality assurance agencies (EQAR-registered agencies), in order to take part in the education programmes assessment and evaluation (Bologna Process Implementation Report, Figure 4.11 – Level of openness to cross border quality assurance of EQAR registered agencies, 2016/2017).


 The majority of EHEA countries leave the final decision on diploma or qualification recognition to its higher education institutions for academic purposes (Bologna Process Implementation Report, Figure 4.15). Belarus was also misleadingly included into this cohort. In accordance with the Code of Education, the Belarusian Ministry of Education retains the right over the final decision on the recognition of foreign diplomas and qualifications. The draft of the new Code of Education introduces several new competences to higher education institutions, in the area of diploma or qualification recognition. However, the ministry has not submitted the draft for Parliament’s approval since it was finalised in 2016.

The Bologna Process Implementation Report, Figure 4.13 analyses the national implementation of five main principles of recognition stated in the Lisbon Recognition Convention: 1) the applicant’s right for fair assessment; 2) recognition, if no substantial differences can be proven; 3) legislation guidelines encouraging comparing learning outcomes, rather than the programmes’ content; 4) in case of a negative decision in recognising the qualification, the national agency must demonstrate the evidence of significant differences between its own qualifications and the qualifications for which the recognition is sought; 5) the applicant’s right to appeal the decision on qualification recognition. Belarus was included in the first group of the most successful countries in terms of qualification recognition procedure. However, there are doubts about the implementation of the third principle because the National Information Centre (Belarus ENIC) is not able to assess learning outcomes, as such term does not exist in the Belarusian legislation on higher education.


According to the report (Bologna Process Implementation Report, Figure 6.19), Belarus is mentioned in the group of countries, in which higher education institutions have the obligation to assist graduates in transitioning from study to work. In reality, this translates into a mandatory work placement system for graduates, stipulated in the Code of Education and other legislation.

The AG2 report highlights that this system can be hardly compared to career development system existing in European universities to assist graduates in their transition period. Furthermore, the AG2 report questions whether the mandatory work placement system for graduates conforms with EHEA fundamental values. What is more, there are doubts that the system is effective in reducing the deficit of qualified employees in some parts of the country. Human rights organisations have repeatedly stressed that the practice of mandatory work placements for graduates could equal to a certain type of forced labour. This aside, the placements could be used as a discriminatory instrument, affecting students whose education was publically funded.

 6.EHEA Fundamental Values 

Belarusian side also presented incorrect information on the implementation of institutional autonomy, and on who makes the final decision to open new educational programmes (Bologna Process Implementation Report, Figure 1.16). According to the current legislation, the Ministry of Education is the ultimate decision-maker on new education programmes, meanwhile the report suggests this is the prerogative of the educational institutions and employers.

In addition, the information on supporting gender equality, political and religious tolerance, and democratic and civic values across the board (Bologna Process Implementation Report, Figure 1.17) is also incorrect. The claim that the policy to support tolerance and democratic values is enshrined in the legislation contradicts the fact the higher education has become a political instrument of the state, used to discriminate and eliminate the dissenting voices. This is also underlined in the AG2 report, which points out to the absence of any significant progress in implementation of EHEA academic values.


The distorted assessment of achievements in implementing fundamental EHEA instruments and values is not a useful contribution to the development of an effective strategy for reforming the Belarusian higher education system, in line with the Bologna standards.

It is difficult to assess whether it has been done on purpose or it is a result of incompetence. The re-introduction of a special monitoring procedure, assisting Belarus in fulfilling its obligations stemming from the roadmap and draft action plan, would be a guarantee of successful integration of Belarus into the EHEA. The Belarusian civil society, and EaP CSF Belarusian National Platform in particular, has been continuously monitoring the implementation of the roadmap and should be actively involved in this procedure. Furthermore, it is necessary to strengthen the expert support for modernisation of the higher education system in Belarus and to provide correct interpretation of the goals set in the draft action plan.

Full text of the Memo in PDF (English)


ESU stands in solidarity with the Students Bloc and supports the protests taking place on 25th of March. Freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are human rights that are universal, and we do not accept any breaches of these.