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Pavel Tserashkovich: Belarusan authorities don’t want to increase the universities’ autonomy

25.01.2016  |  Society   |  Sergey Kozhukov,  EuroBelarus
Pavel Tserashkovich: Belarusan authorities don’t want to increase the universities’ autonomy

The authorities’ wish to control the appointment of the heads of universities hampers the fulfillment of the roadmap of Bologna process.

Belarus is going further in restricting the universities’ institutional autonomy, believe the experts of the Education Policy Center at Vilnius University, who are the authors of the “Monitoring of public participation in higher education governance in EaP countries”.

- This is the monitoring that was taking place in Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova at the same time, - professor Pavel Tserashkovich, a member of the European Humanitarian Committee, ex-head of the EHU Senate told the “EuroBelarus” Information Service. – Its goal is to find out the extent to which the legislation of these countries allows the public to participate in the management of higher education institutions. It is not just about the people who are not a part of a university but also about the teachers, students, employers, and public organizations.

I must say that in the last four – five years these three countries adopted the codes or laws on higher education (in 2011in Belarus, in 2014 in Moldova, and in 2015 in Ukraine).

These documents differ in content a lot. Moldovan and Ukrainian laws are quite close to each other: the universities in these countries enjoy a very high degree of autonomy, including the right to choose the management – the head of the university.

Its absolutely vice versa in the Belarusian system – the autonomy of higher education institutions in it is incomparably lower than that in Moldova and Ukraine. Although we can say that the laws in these countries have been recently adopted and it’s not that smooth in practice. But when it will be applied in accordance with the letter of the law, the rules will be fully consistent with the principles of the Bologna process. Belarus, unfortunately, is moving in quite the opposite direction.

- Did anything change at the legislative level in education since March 2015, when Belarus has entered the Bologna process?

- No concrete steps have been made yet. We know that the Ministry of Education has issued the letter of guidance, which leads higher education institutions towards the implementation of the conditions laid down in the roadmap for Belarus. But as far as I know, no concrete steps at the legislative level were made. That is, they are scheduled, including amendments to the Education Code, but that’s it for now.

- Does anything change with perception of processes that are happening in the education system?

- First of all, the structure of the higher education is changing. It is really being transformed to the three-stage system: bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, doctor of science, and candidate of science. This structure is approved, curricula are changed, and loan transfer system that exists in the European Higher Education Area is being introduced. I.e. there are positive changes from the point of view of education techniques.

However, the road map concentrates on the situation with academic freedoms, whereas there’s no visible progress in this regard.

- Do the authorities fulfill the roadmap today?

- The Public Bologna Committee is busy with monitoring the extent to which the map is being fulfilled. Our opinion is that there is too little progress that Belarus has made during several months of being in the European Higher Education Area. We can also state certain regress when it comes to academic freedoms.

- What is the forecast for Belarus in education?

- It’s hard to make forecasts. There were no states that entered the Bologna process in the frames that Belarus did. No of the states were given a roadmap. It’s very hard to predict what happens if its conditions are unfulfilled.

The decision to include Belarus to Bologna process was a political one. It is a certain reward or encouragement for Belarus’ righteous position to the Ukraine’s crisis and for providing the area for negotiations, too. This reward shouldn’t have cost the West a lot.

- What are the immediate benefits of Belarus’ entering the Bologna process?

- It’s too early to make conclusions. Belarus has been taking certain responsibilities. If they were fulfilled, I wouldn’t say we’d seen positive changes right away. However, it can be an incentive to modernize the higher education system.

According to the experts, our education system lacks behind education techniques, its content, and academic freedoms.

- Do you think that the Education Ministry officials are ready for this modification?

- From my point of view, they did what they could do. But there are decisions that are taken by others.

There are people who are absolutely aware about the benefits that Belarus gets. First of all, the European Higher Education Area means that educational services can be converted and foreign students can be enrolled. Today not only Belarus worries about it, but also the countries with the developed system of education. The world race for students is happening.

- What problem do those who make decisions at a higher level have?

- Their problem is the need to introduce real steps that, first of all, touch upon the universities’ autonomy. The thing is that in accordance with the European tradition and principles of Bologna system an academic community should decide who will be its head and should elect the head of the university. This is, perhaps, the main problem for Belarusan authorities.

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