WENR, August 2005: Russia & The Commonwealth of Independent States
Shuttered University Reopens in Lithuania
Already, EHU has approximately 600 students enrolled. It reportedly will receive US$1.8 million from the U.S. State Department and U.S. foundations and US$607,000 from the European Union for the upcoming academic year.
When the Belarusian government closed the formerly Minsk-based EHU, it cited violations of its operating license. However, President Aleksandr Lukashenko subsequently revealed the main motive: The university had trained Western-oriented students.
June 10, 2005
Crackdown Continues on Private Universities, Humanities Faculties
Education Minister Alyaksandr Radzkou told journalists in July that Belarus has too many universities offering studies in the humanities and nontechnical fields. Radzkou said the state will gradually diminish this extra capacity by closing branches of primarily private universities. Officials also have said the government will reduce humanities faculties at state-run universities, and that core courses in state ideology, “The Basics of the Ideology of the Republic of Belarus,” will begin soon.
European Humanities University (EHU) was shuttered in 2004 (see above), and now departments of the private Institute of Contemporary Knowledge are being closed. Ideology officers reportedly have been dispersed throughout the education system. Because private institutions are, by definition, less likely to toe the government line, the government is cracking down. Currently, there are 43 state-owned and 10 private institutions in Belarus.
According to Terry Boesch, an American business and law professor who was expelled from the country in July, the campaign against private education will continue. In an interview with RFE/RL, he said the government already has announced that private law, economics and business institutes and colleges will be closed in September. Belarusian officials defend the move by saying the country already has more than enough business, legal and economic specialists.
July 21, 2005
New National University Entrance Examination Administered
In an effort to curb widespread corruption in university admissions (see March/April issue of WENR), a new national university admissions examination was administered across the country in July. The new test is similar to the U.S. Scholastic Ability Test (SAT) and was prepared in consultation with Education Testing Services, which prepares the SAT in the United States. Examinations were held in general skills, foreign languages and mathematics.
The government received funding for the new admissions test from the World Bank as part of a larger project, first launched under the government of Eduard Shevardnadze, which originally focused on reforms in the primary and secondary school systems. Responding to requests from the Mikhail Saakashvili government, which came to power in 2003 under the so-called Rose Revolution, the World Bank agreed to fund the new university admissions tests, which had been identified as a major source of corruption.
Through a simultaneous accreditation program, the Ministry of Education reduced the number of first year students that universities can accept. Only 17,000 out of 32,000 students will get into university this year and 4,000 will receive full scholarships for their studies. In a country where anyone could get a university degree before, the new merit-based system marks a radical change.
From primary school to doctoral programs, the country’s entire education system is in transition. Over the past year, the school curriculum has been modernized (see November/December issue of WENR) and many administrators have been replaced. Many professors and tens of private universities have been eliminated from the system. The man responsible for the changes, Education Minister Alexander Lomaia, has faced opposition within parliament and from the general public and has had to resist calls for his resignation. The minister is banking on positive results from the reform movement to justify his controversial initiatives. The first indications of success or failure will come with the publication of the SAT results, which are scheduled for release at the end of August.
— The Messenger
July 12, 2005
Putin Forges Higher Education Cooperation Deal with EU
The Russian government has asked the European Union (EU) for practical aid in advancing its participation in the Bologna process – the European educational harmonization project – which the country signed onto in 2003.
The EU agreement focuses on higher education and builds on Russia’s recent participation in the Tempus program. It was approved in Moscow by Russian President Vladimir Putin, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and EU Council of Ministers President Jean-Claude Juncker.
The agreement commits the EU to help train Bologna promoters, who will assist Russia in making its degree system compatible with the three-year undergraduate and two-year master’s degrees being introduced in the rest of Europe. The agreement includes a future commitment to help Russia build an institutional quality-assurance and accreditation system and a commitment to build academic links through the encouragement of collaborative research projects and the awarding of joint degrees.
— Kremlin news announcement
May 10, 2005
Patriotic Education Funded for 5 Years
The Russian government introduced a national patriotic youth education program in July to promote national and state values. The program, which has received funding through the year 2010, will support films, festivals, competitions, software development and the promotion of state symbols and the national anthem. The program will also earmark funding to “confront attempts to compromise and devaluate patriotic ideals in the mass media, literature and art,” according to newsru.com.
July 19, 2005
Russian Business School Among World’s Best
The ratings were compiled by QS TopMBA, an international business education research and consulting company. The rankings are based on a survey of approximately 4,000 international recruiters, who were asked to specify which schools produce the best employees. MSU’s breakthrough apparently has inspired Russian authorities: Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref recently endorsed the idea of the partial state financing of two new business schools, in Moscow and St. Petersburg, with a budget of US$200 million each.
— RIA Novosti
July 19, 2005
European Business Schools Team Up for St. Petersburg MBA
Four European business schools – HEC, Copenhagen Business School, the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration and the Belgian IAG School of Management – announced in July that they will work together to offer an international executive master’s in business administration (MBA) through the St. Petersburg State University School of Management.
The St. Petersburg school believes the joint venture represents a new model for cooperative projects between Russian and foreign schools. Rather than merely importing a foreign business degree program, officials from St. Petersburg believe this new initiative represents a truly collaborative effort in which Western management theories will be applied to the realities of the Russian business world. Currently, there are 55 institutions in Russia licensed to offer MBA programs. Many of these programs are offered in partnership with foreign schools. Skeptics of the new cooperative project believe the product on offer is much the same as that offered by the school’s rivals, but in different packaging and at a higher cost – at US$24,800, the program will be the most expensive MBA in Russia.
— St. Petersburg Times
July 22, 2005
Standardized Test Introduced to Curtail Corruption
President Viktor Yushchenko was voted into office in late December on promises to rid the country of the rampant corruption that is plaguing social, economic and political life in Ukraine. In a recent address to state universities around the country, the president asked administrators to do their bit to curtail the corruption endemic to the admissions process.
To combat the bribery and cronyism that plagues the admissions process and entrance examinations, the Ministry of Education and Science said it will introduce by 2006 a standardized test for high school graduates that will help determine placement in state colleges. The test will replace the institution-to-institution entrance policies that leave the door open to rampant corruption by academics and administrators. Similar standardized-test initiatives are being implemented or have been implemented in Russia, Georgia and Krygyzstan (see back issues of WENR).
— The Chronicle of Higher Education
July 8, 2005