Quality of Belarus’ higher education stimulates students’ exodus to study abroad
Last week, the Education Ministry announced an additional call for applications to higher education establishments and reduced the admission grade to a minimum on specialities, which are “in sharp demand by the economy and social sphere”.
With its actions, the Ministry attempted to solve the problem of students’ shortage funded from the state budget. The problem is that the number of places at universities exceeds the number of high school graduates. For instance, 45 public and 9 private universities annually produce about 80,000 specialists with higher education (in 2014 - almost 77,000). Two-thirds of students pay tuition fees which are often higher than in other countries in the region. The way the authorities attempt to solve the ‘lack of students’ problem (by lowering admission standards) will only exacerbate it in the future, because the quality and prestige of Belarusian higher education will continue reducing. As a result, many young Belarusians prefer studying in foreign universities (most often - in Poland, Lithuania, and Russia), where tuition fees are compatible with those in Belarus. If Belarusian Education authorities do not change their policies in education, recent trends (reduced quality of the education, growing tuition fees and graduates outflow to study abroad) will persist in the future.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.