Quality of Belarus’ higher education stimulates students’ exodus to study abroad

April 22, 2016 18:54

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.

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The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.

In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.

There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.

That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.