Second Seminar, 21-22 March, 2018
Quality of higher education in Belarus with the stakeholders’ eyes
Belarus State Economic University in cooperation with
Baltic Sea Region University Network
Minsk (Belarus)

On 21 and 22 March 2018, II International Seminar “Quality of higher education in Belarus with the stakeholders’ eyes” organized within the framework of the project of international technical assistance of ERASMUS + program “Fostering competencies in Belarusian higher education (FOSTERC)” was held at BSEU. The seminar was a joint event of the FOSTERC project and the Baltic Sea Region University Network (BSRUN).
The FOSTERC project is very important in the context of a new educational paradigm that is being formed in Belarus and requires a rethinking of the content, methods and outcomes of training. In this regard foreign experience can be useful. So, the idea to hold a seminar as a joint event of the FOSTERC project and BSRUN was considered reasonable.

The seminar aroused great interest among representatives of the scientific and pedagogical community, experts in education, innovative educational technologies, and all those who are interested in implementing the training of qualified graduates of higher educational institutions. It brought together a representative audience: more than 80 representatives of Belarusian universities and their foreign partners from Spain, Finland, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Sweden, Germany, representatives of the Office of ERASMUS + Program in the Republic of Belarus, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, experts of the European Union project “Employment and Vocational Education and Training in Belarus” etc. took part in its sessions.

The welcoming speeches were made by the BSEU pro-rector V.А. Khmelnitsky, Chief specialist of the Higher Education Department of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Belarus T.N. Mariiko, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Belarus, Ambassador Andrea Viktorin, Senior Advisor to the Secretariat of the Council of the Baltic Sea States Anna Brandt, BSRUN President Kari Hypponen and FOSTERC Project Coordinator Adela Garcia-Aracil.

The issues discussed at the joint event are topical as related to the internationalization of education. BSRUN experts demonstrated best practices of cooperation of Belarusian universities with the Network participants, bringing educational institutions together and contributing to a more dense and effective entry of Belarusian higher education in the EHEA. Irinja Paakkanen and Mari Leino, representatives of the University of Turku (Finland), demonstrated convincingly on the sample of UTU that mobility was a catalyst for internationalization. A.E. Karlik, head of the Department of Economics and Management of Enterprises and Industrial Complexes, UNECON (Russia), outlined the cooperation of SPbGEU and Belarusian universities in the scientific sphere as a tool for increasing efficiency of economy of the Union State. Ilona Baumane-Vitolina, representative of the University of Latvia (Latvia), demonstrated the possibilities of replicating the experience of the universities of Latvia and Estonia as active participants in the innovation ecosystem, S.A. Maskevich, director of the International Sakharov Ecological Institute (Belarus) – new educational projects launched by the ISEI that are focused on development of international cooperation. Noted should be the report made by Harald Schomburg (Germany), an independent expert in Tracer Studies, who acquainted the participants of the seminar with the international experience of studying the developing career of university graduates.

Creation of a new educational paradigm requires close interaction of all groups of stakeholders interested in training highly skilled employees, competitive in the labor market, competent, ready for constant professional growth, social and professional mobility etc. So universities should know the opinions of their stakeholders. The most effective way is to survey them. Graduates, teachers of Belarusian universities and employers of the republic were surveyed from September 2017 to January 2018 within the framework of the FOSTERC project. The results of the survey are to be discussed at the joint seminar.

Of particular interest was the report of Maria Bass (University of Valencia) and her colleagues Jose Gines Mora (Oxford University), stating the results of the survey that identified the bottlenecks in training the graduates from the viewpoint of formation of competences as learning outcomes. In turn, the representatives of the Belarusian universities – partners of the project gave a detailed analysis of the stakeholders’ views on quality of training graduates in the republic. In particular, how employers evaluate the relevance of higher education to the requirements of labor market (Igor Titovich, NIHE) and quality of graduates’ training (Alena Doryna, BSEU), how graduates and teachers evaluate the methods of teaching and learning (Alexandra Pozniak, BSPU) and level of competencies’ formation (Tatiana Kovalchuk, BrSU), study-related experience abroad (Alexander Rytov, BSU). The other speakers announced the importance of different competencies for different groups of stakeholders (Yuri Belykh, GrSU), showed the extent to what the study programs offered by the university help its students master competencies (Nadezhda Bareyka, PGU), how the graduates of agrarian profile form competencies (Alexander Sviridov, GrGAU) and how the competence-based approach is made use of (Mikhail Koshman, GSU) (See presentations on the BSEU website).

Finishing the seminar, the EU experts evaluated as fruitful the results of training seminars held in Belarusian participating universities in October-November 2017.

On March 22, 2018, a working meeting of the project was held to discuss the issues of developing a student-oriented model of training that is based on the survey data obtained, developing the materials for its implementation as an experiment and a piloting procedure (assignments of WP 6 with Gomel State University in charge).