The Independent Bologna Committee states lack of progress in implementation of the roadmap of reforms in the higher education of Belarus in the part of fundamental academic values.
On 14 May 2015 Belarus had to assume obligations to complete the Road Map of reforms in its higher education system at the Yerevan conference of 47 ministers for education of the European Higher Education Area. Pursuant to the Road Map the Belarusian authorities were to prepare and implement legislative measures and educational-policy measures aimed at upholding the academic staff and students rights.
“However, an aggravating offensive against academic freedoms and rights of the academia seems to make a sharp dissonance with such promises. Censorship is intensifying”, - says the statement of the Independent Bologna Committee, read on November 19 at the session of round-table talks in Minsk.
Thus, recently, the edition of Vital Silitski’s book “Dolgaya doroga ot tiranii: postkommunisticheskiy avtoritarism I borba za demokratiyu v Serbii i Belarusi” (Long Way Out of Tyranny: Post-Communist Authoritarianism and Struggle for Democracy in Serbia and Belarus) has been destroyed following the instructions of the Ministry for Information. “This sad event follows academic repressions launched in Hrodna by firing academic staff connected to production of Hrodnaznaustva (Hrodna Studies) book or who solidarized with the victims of administrative despotism from the university. This time the posthumous book of the independent researcher from Minsk fell victim to censorship”, - is noted in the document.
The intimidation tactics, the Independent Bologna Committee believes, is equally aimed at the academic staff of the higher education institutions and researchers as well as against editors who have received an unequivocal signal from the authorities.
The practice of forcing students to vote early at the presidential election, use of students in school time in agricultural, construction works, official political campaigns and mass events continue.
In the recent days, students’ struggle against introducing payment for retaking failed examinations has become especially heated.
“Initiated at the Belarusian State University November 3, 2015 the students’ movement spread to other higher education institutions of Belarus. The students who collected thousands of signatures against additional payment for retaking examinations hoped for dialogue with administrations of higher education institutions and consideration of their opinion when making decisions. However, they faced ostentatious disregard of their position, arrogant ignoring of Belarus’ obligations undertaken concerning increased involvement of students in managing higher education institutions when acceding to the European Higher Education Area, - is said in the statement of the Independent Bologna Committee. – Moreover, the campaign activists are persecuted, threatened with expelling or legal proceedings even. At the same time, the official student organisations, student representatives at the councils of higher education institutions and official bodies of student self-governance remain indifferent concerning the campaign as well as the fate of the campaign activists and participants. In the situation, the official student bodies have once again demonstrated their complete dependence on and submission to control by the administrations of higher education institutions as well as absolute irrelevance to the Belarusian obligations to develop student self-governance”.
The members of the Independent Bologna Committee condemned the academic repressions and infringements on the rights of students and academic staff. They appealed to the administrations of higher education institutions, the Ministry for Education in charge of implementing the Road Map to take measures for discontinuing persecution of students and for complying with the fundamental academic values.
Apart from that, the members of the Committee are forced to pay attention of the Road Map implementation stakeholders – the BFUG, Advisory Committee on the Support for the Belarus Roadmap – to the violations by the Belarusian party of its obligations set forth in the Yerevan communiqué.
“We appeal to all the Road Map implementation stakeholders to support victims of academic repressions in Belarus, to urge the Belarusian authorities to abide by their obligations concerning respect for the fundamental academic values”, - is said in the statement.
“We hope that all the above-mentioned will be taken into account by both the sides. We hope that the Belarusan side is also aware that it has taken the wrong way and we hope to correct this course. Although it is clear that there are few grounds for optimism”, - Uladzimir Dunaeu, professor of philosophy, a former Vice Rector of the EHU, the member of the public Bologna committee commented upon the results of the round-table in the interview with the EuroBelarus Information Service.
“If in the very beginning we see that the Belarusan side has been neglecting its duties concerning fundamental academic values, we doubt that it will be able to successfully take the whole way marked in this roadmap”, - he noted.
Dunaeu emphasized that for now the statement reflects “only assessment, which is rather fragmentary”. “We’ll see to what degree the structures of the European Higher Education Area that are responsible for the implementation of the roadmap will take them into consideration. I think that in the beginning they will hope that this situation can be improved”, - he stated.