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Tatsiana Sshytsova: Belarus strongly needs powerful constructive social initiatives

01.06.2015  |  Society   |  Alena Barel,  EuroBelarus
Tatsiana Sshytsova: Belarus strongly needs powerful constructive social initiatives

Retrograde Europe’s import is a mistake. Belarus is European to a degree it develops institutes in common-European context, reflexively identifying its experience in plural field of European cultures.

EuroBelarus” Information Service continues the discussion about the initiative of establishing the National University. We have already found out the opinion of Tatsiana Vadalazhskaja, Uladzimir Dunaeu, Sviatlana Matskevich, Stanislau Shushkevich, Aliaksei Lastouski, Uladzimir Kolas, Iryna Dubianetskaja, Maksim Zhbankou, Andrei Rolenok, Aliaksei Kryvalap, as well as the initiator of creation of the main university of the nation – Aliaksandr Milinkevich.

Today Tatsiana Sshytsova, the professor of the European State University, Doctor of Philosophy reasons whether Belarus needs such university and why.

- It’s hard to find a univocal answer to this question, since at the moment there are only few very common program declarations that are closer to slogans.

“Effective” – what are the criteria of this efficiency? “Competitive” – in competition with whom? How its “Belarusan nature” is understood? What is the university’s structure? Is it seen as an educational institution with European diplomas or as a research and enlightening one?

What are the sources of its funding? If they are mainly “Western”, what political basing will have the fact that the “National University” is being established in the interests of third countries? We can keep on asking questions; all that we can discuss with a certain level of certainty are two intentions: the university should be “national” and should be established abroad (presumably in Poland).

First, I would like to introduce a different definition that seems to be principal for our situation – a university as a civil, not state of private initiative. In this sense Belarus needs such university: because state universities have very strong inertia of old (Soviet) institutional traditions strengthened with the newest ideological conscience; because universities have turned into “regime objects” in their goals and practices due to political situation; because Belarus needs open institutions (intellectual areas) that can work in cooperation with the civil society.

The situation with two other definitions is more complicated. Historically, the time for establishing a national university has passed. I am sure that the initiators of the project are aware of that and are heading for the internationalization and mobility in their policy. In this relation we cannot mention the inclusion of Belarus into Bologna process.

But here we need to ask what do we mean when we say “national”? What mission and what policy it should reveal, taking into account that Belarus is a sovereign polyethnic state included in the processes of global economic, political, and cross-cultural interaction?

One more serious issue is the intention to create such kind of university in Poland. EHU came to be a university abroad against its will and for that reason positions itself as a “university in exile”. But the idea of immediate placement “in exile” looks a little bit grotesque; besides, isolation considerably limits the possibility of being “efficient”.

Let me add that today the definition of “national” is used almost as a synonym of a “state”.

Will the national university become an alternative to the EHU?

- I’m afraid that a trajectory of a new project is counterproductive, which is another somewhat disappointing moment in this initiative. In this relation I cannot but mark some incorrect statements in EHU’s assessment by the creators of the national university: “commercial project”, “doesn’t give reasons to longer find it a Belarusan project”.

In general, this opposition of EHU as a “non-Belarusan project” and really “Belarusan” projects today has some anachronistic mode that doesn’t take into account present-day factors.

About the slogan of the project – “More Europe to Belarus” and about the best place to establish a university

- It is important to understand that the statement of the question that makes us choose one of the given directions is deadlock, since the separation of Europe and Belarus is doesn’t have any prospects. It was relevant in late 80s – early 90s; but now we are living in a different time and in a different world. Political experience of sovereignty gave a new impulse to the development of the historical science and Belarusan literature as one of the European literatures.

These are just few traits that make us understand that for the educational policy to be modern and working for the future it should proceed from the principle of reflexive contextualization, not some retrograde principle of “Europe’s import”. Reflexive contextualization presupposes that Belarus becomes European as much as it develops and thinks of its institutes and practices in common-European context, identifying its experience in a plural field of European cultures.

I find the question “where” rhetorical. Such university is worthwhile to establish in Belarus, all the more that we have numerous fruitful materials and perquisites in the form of related projects and intellectual communities.

About the possibility to become a teacher of the national university

- First of all, I want to say that with all the voiced doubts, I am respectful towards those who are ready to promote the idea of a new university. Belarus lacks strong constructive initiatives of social character. I think that the discussion about work is premature and just wish Mr. Milinkevich and his team every success, necessary strength and wisdom. 

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