The need for the establishment of a National University in Belarus is obviously clear. While being formally independent European country with 84% of indigenous Belarusian population, Belarus still has no a single higher educational institution with Belarusian language of instruction. This paradoxical fact has many explanations, but the main one — Belarus still have not got rid of the vestiges of the colonial mentality which are being restored in the mass consciousness, including through the education system and that have remained almost unchanged since Soviet times.
One of the main features of this system aimed at unifying the vast population of the Soviet empire was the imposition of the Russian language as the sole language of communication, and giving national languages of other nations that were part of empire, including Belarus, undervalued status of «village» language, that does not give prospects in life. This situation raises a number of problems, the analysis of which is not included in this text format. But the main conclusion to be drawn is that the creation of the Belarusian university — it is one of the main reasons for the European modernization of the country, without which the development of Belarus, as a modern European state, it is impossible.
At the same time, modernization is a vital point of the current agenda in Belarus. It was widely acknowledged not only by the substantial part of population, civil society, but also by number of representatives of official political leadership in the last years. There is also a strong public demand for improvement of higher education. It is expressed in the public campaigns: a number of projects of informal education (Belarusian Collegiums, Flying University, European College of Liberal Arts in Belarus) and the recent civil society initiative of establishing a National University.
The hope that the European Humanities University will become such an educational institution has not been justified, for its leadership has taken the position of that part of the post-Soviet intelligentsia, that still lives in the cultural and geopolitical space of the Soviet empire. The main language of instruction there, as in all other Belarusian universities, is the Russian language, and the Belarusian language, like the entire Belarusian culture as a whole, is treated as something secondary and provincial.
Therefore, recently an initiative group has been created under the Society of Belarusian language for the establishment of a modern public university, where the main language of communication and instruction would be the Belarusian language.
The establishment of such institution based on the values of academic freedom, Belarusian national culture and traditions of multiculturalism in Belarus should consolidate academic and intellectual community and provide a mile stone for transformation of the system of education and the society in general.
- meet modern educational standards,
- be competitive at the national educational market,
- attract students by the quality of training,
- give the professions that will be most in demand in the national and international labor market.
The new university should show fundamentally new, democratic system of government. Ideally it should become a model for the new type of educational environment which could spread all over the country the European academic and cultural values.
Current situation and the steps for the near future
Co-chairs of the organizing committee of the University are: Aleg Trusau (historian and public figure), Uladzimir Kolas (film director, Deputy Chairman of the Belarusian Language Society, founder and director of the Belarusian Humanities Lyceum) and Aliaksandr Milinkevich (physicist and public figure, former chairman of the movement «For freedom «). The organizing committee also includes Alena Anisim (researcher at the National Academy of Sciences, chairman of the Belarusian Language Society, Member of Belarusian Parliament — Chamber of Representatives), Iryna Dubjanetskaja (Coordinator of the educational platform «Belarusian Collegium»), Pavel Tserashkovich (anthropologist, former Chairman of the Senate, European Humanities University), representatives of public organizations of Belarus.
The organizing committee has come to the following conclusions:
- university should be based and operate only in Belarus;
- there are enough university professors who are able to teach the Belarusian language to meet the needs of the Belarusian-language university and hold classes at the highest level;
- the current situation in Belarus becomes more favorable for the initiatives aimed at revival of national identity and European modernization;
- the initiative group should establish the university as an independent academic institution, obtain official approval for the candidate for the position of rector in accordance with Belarusian regulations.
The initiative group sees the next steps of the project in the near future:
- to register the University as the legal body;
- to register the
- to elect the Rector and to set up the work of Rector office;
- to form a team of highly professional teachers from among the Belarusian university professors, as well as young Belarusian scientists and teachers who have experience of working at Western universities;
- to establish the University fund and to start fundraising campaign.
- To develop and to register the Statute;
• to elect the rector and to obtain the official approval of his candidature by the authorities in accordance with the normative acts of Belarus;
• to recruit professors and administrative personnel, to search premises
• to establish the fund to raise funds for the activities of the University;
• to launch the university as a Magister degree department and distance learning courses of the university
• To launch Bachelor degree department of the university
Timing and pace of implementation of the project will depend on the terms and conditions under which its implementation will take place. With sufficient funds and a favorable political situation, the project has the potential to develop into the creation of a campus with academic buildings, dormitories for students and housing for professors. However, in the current circumstances it is quite possible to start the Master degree programs and distance learning courses since 2017/18 school year to start Bachelor degree programs since 2018/19 school year.
At this stage, the initiative group has begun the process of registration and the development of the Statute, the election of the Rector, the selection of professors staff, as well as the search for funds to pay for legal advice, rent premises, purchase of office equipment and hardware, programming and lecture courses, salaries of professors and administration.