Council of Europe: Belarus Has Joined the Bologna Process, So We Can Now Work More Closely Together

The Council of Europe is ready to develop close cooperation with Belarus in the field of higher education and provide expert support to ensure the country's compliance with the Roadmap for Higher Education Reform after it joined the European Higher Education Area. ODB interviewed Katia Dolgova-Dreyer, Head of Unit for Regional and Bilateral Co-operation in CIS and Central Asia of the Council of Europe.

Katia Dolgova-Dreyer, Head of Unit for Regional and Bilateral Co-operation in CIS and Central Asia of the Council of Europe

ODB: You mentioned that the Council of Europe closely followed Belarus' application to join the Bologna Process. How does it develop the cooperation with Belarus today and provide it with education support?

K.D.: We work with Belarus within the framework of the European Cultural Convention, which is why we have been following the process of reforms for quite a long time. Surely, when Belarus began to prepare its application, we were also involved in this process to a degree, because we had already worked with the country, with its Ministry of Education, etc. Naturally, for us it was important for this cooperation to continue and become more formalized: as soon as Belarus joined EHEA, we gained more opportunities to work on the topics of the Bologna Process. Also, we engaged Belarus in Bologna Process-related events even when the country had not yet joined it. For example, starting in 2011, we had annual regional educational meetings at the level of Ministers of Education which gathered countries of the region that were part of the Bologna Process, and Belarus could be involved in these meetings as an observer, thus becoming part of the Bologna Process discussions.

Now that Belarus has joined, we have created a working group on the Bologna Process level which will monitor implementation of the Roadmap for Higher Education Reform. The Council of Europe will also take part in the work of this group because we are interested in facilitating this process. For example, we are interested in organizing events like the workshop recently held in Minsk, which was jointly organized by Magna Charta Observatory, the Council of Europe, ODB Brussels, Belarusian National Institute for Higher Education and the Council of Europe Information Point in Minsk: we are ready to cooperate in the field of education quality assurance; we have good experts that can help set up an external education quality assurance system - and the same applies to students-related issues. The Council of Europe has a well-established and productive cooperation with the European Students' Union: we have a practice and history of organizing joint events, primarily on student participation in university governance. We would like to organize a seminar, a small conference or a training to cover these issues.

We are glad that the event in Minsk was organized in cooperation with Magna Charta Observatory, which is the principal European-level organization that preserves these values, and whose experts can explain what we mean by academic freedom and institutional autonomy. We also welcome cooperation with ODB Brussels - with Olga Stuzhinskaya, who initiated this event, thus helping us join forces and get experienced experts from the Observatory and the Council of Europe to become involved in the process.

Katia Dolgova-Dreyer (second from left), Head of Unit for Regional and Bilateral Co-operation in CIS and Central Asia of the Council of Europe

ODB: On the one hand, the Council of Europe will monitor how the Roadmap is implemented, and on the other, it will help Belarus make progress?

K.D.: Yes, that is correct. We believe that the most important thing now is to facilitate all these processes, because Belarus has indeed been very late to join the Bologna Process: many other countries have put in years of efforts, they have had more time to implement reforms of higher education, while Belarus has to achieve this quickly, so we have to help.

ODB: Three years for Belarus to implement the Roadmap for Higher Education Reform - until the ministerial-level EHEA Conference in Paris 2018 - is it long or not? Is the development of a Roadmap a unique case for the Bologna Process?

K.D.: Yes, actually, it's a first for us. Three years is not that much, of course, because we have worked very closely with the countries that joined in 2005, and this process is always difficult because some aspects require much more time. For example, the National Qualifications Framework is quite a challenging and demanding topic; so many countries that set out to do it back in 2005 are still not quite finished with the framework and only now are beginning to implement it. So three years is not at all long.

SEE PHOTOS here and here.

Read more:

Sijbolt Noorda: Belarus Roadmap for Higher Education Reform is a serious thing, it is really time to start to change

How Can Belarusian Universities Achieve Academic Freedom and Institutional Autonomy?

First Belarusian University Joins Magna Charta Universitatum

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