Many years have passed since the Republic of Belarus was considered to be on the outskirts of Russia and needed a special introduction. Nowadays Belarus is a dynamic, fast-growing country with cities of European format and an open visa-free policy. Every year the number of tourists increases; in 2017 Belarus was visited by more than 283,000 foreign citizens. Guests are attracted by the unique Belarusian nature; a distinct and proud culture with its own language, customs, cuisine and art; and the warm and friendly attitude towards foreigners.
Of particular interest is acquaintance with the educational system of the Republic of Belarus. Belarusians have not destroyed the strong traditions of the Soviet school system and are moving confidently along the path of the Bologna process. About 15,000 foreign students from 126 countriesare enrolled today in higher education institutions. They opt for Belarus due to the high quality of education, qualified faculty members and the possibility of studying Russian and Belarusian languages in an authentic environment. The relatively low cost of training also serves as a good opportunity to participate in the educational programs of the Republic of Belarus.
The Belarusian system of higher education comprises 42 states and 15 non-state higher educational institutions (VNU) with a total of 243,700 students. Universities and academies offer graduate and post-graduate programs and are engaged in fundamental research. Higher educational institutions offer full-time (day) and part-time (night and correspondence) programs in Russian, Belarusian and English languages. The degree that has been traditionally conferred by Belarusian higher educational institutions is called a Certified Specialist. It usually requires five years of training, success in the final state examinations and the defense of a thesis. The study at medical institutions lasts longer and has a different set of requirements. The need to integrate into the world educational community has stimulated the introduction of two other degrees: Bachelor’s, after four years of training, and Master’s, after six years of instruction. The advanced scholarly degrees include Kandydatnavuk (literally “Candidate of Sciences”) and Doktarnavuk (Doctor of Sciences). The degree of Kandydat is approximately equivalent to a Ph.D. and requires at least three years of post-graduate study, success in qualification examinations, and the defence of a dissertation. The Doktar’s degree is highly prestigious and can be obtained after many years of teaching and independent research. A three-year sabbatical called daktarantura leads to the defence of a second dissertation of high theoretical and practical value. The defence is preceded by the publication of several dozen articles and at least one monograph.
Belarusian education never stops in its development. Recently, the National Institute for Higher Education (NIHE) has entered the world ranking, Round University Rankings (RUR). RUR is a world university ranking, which measures the performance of the world’s 930 leading universities by 20 indicators across 4 key missions: teaching, research, international diversity and financial sustainability.
The National Institute for Higher Education has the official status of the leading educational institution in the sphere of professional development and normative-methodological support of the higher school of the Republic of Belarus. In implementing its educational and cultural programs, the Institute makes wide use of the human and intellectual potential of education and science of the Republic of Belarus, close partnerships with the institutes of the CIS, the UN, UNESCO, the Council of Europe, foreign universities, educational, scientific and information centers.
Today, the Republic of Belarus sets ambitious goals in the sphere of exporting educational services and attracting foreign students. The Study Centre for International Cooperation in Education is engaged in the scientific, methodological and organizational support of this activity. Here an examination of international treaties in the field of education is carried out, continuous professional training of employees of institutions of higher education engaged in international cooperation is organized, various trainings and conferences on the development of export activities of the Republic of Belarus are held. On the basis of the centre there is an information-consulting centre on foreign citizens training in the Republic of Belarus, remote consultation of representatives of higher education institutions, recruiting companies on international cooperation issues. This centre is the right choice for obtaining comprehensive informationabout educational programs and any forms of cooperation. 
It is the NIHE where the foreign educational documents are examined for their recognition in Belarus. Annually, the centre issues about 2,000 responses on academic and professional recognition of foreign documents on education, training periods. The National Institute for Higher Education performs the function of the National Information Centre on Academic Recognition and Mobility (Belarus ENIC).
For the last three years the Institute has organised and conducted an “International Summer School of the Belarusian Language”. During a two-week period the participants of the project have a unique opportunity to acquire the skills of Belarusian oral and written communication in a short time and to join the linguistic, historical and cultural heritage of Belarus. The lecturers, who are well-known Belarusian researchers, introduce students to the current issues and problems of Belarusian linguistics, literature, history and culture. Visiting museums, exhibitions, libraries and other cultural centers of the country, meetings with figures of Belarusian culture, art and science and themed parties allow listeners to plunge deeper into the linguistic cultural environment. The “International Summer School of the Belarusian Language” is already a fairly well-known project, which every year attracts up to 80 people from about 45 countries, who are interested in the Belarusian language.
The Russian school, teaching the language as a foreign language, and internship programs for foreign students are of no less interest. The lecturers have extensive experience in teaching Russian as a foreign language, using special teaching methods and individual approach to each student, making the learning process more comfortable and efficient including distance learning. Programs are designed for all levels and ages, at the end of the course a student receives a state certificate. On behalf of the Ministry of Education, the National Institute for Higher Education works on creating a regulatory and methodological framework for the establishment of the National Certification Centre of the Belarusian and Russian languages.
The NIHE has prepared a new format of training programs for university staff and has enabled internship abroad as part of professional mobility on such subjects as: “The strategy of an educational institution for the development of export of educational services”, “Innovative strategies for the career guidance of centres for planning and career development in the institutions of higher education”, “Scientific, methodological and organisational support of pedagogical activity with foreign students in English”, “Cognitive Science and Education in the European Higher Education Area and the Republic of Belarus” and others. During these programs specialists, teaching staff and heads of educational institutions will be able to visit educational institutions, to get acquainted with the peculiarities of the organisation and implementation of activities of educational institutions abroad.
A special role is played by the NIHE in the formation and implementation of the state youth policy, the organisation of educational work in the institutions of higher education. The qualification “A Youth worker” can be obtained only at the Department of Youth Policy and Social and Cultural Communication (it should be noted that far-sighted business leaders and organisations have recently introduced this position into the staff list). The NIHE prepares and publishes an annual national report titled, “On the situation of young people in the Republic of Belarus”, and holds a computer database of talented young people among students and working youth.
The NIHE has some experience in the implementation of international projects and programs. For example, this period serves as the national coordinator of the project ERASMUS + “Promotion of development of competencies in Belarusian higher education (FOSTERC)”. 8 Belarusian universities are developing projects of experimental educational programs in the field of higher education stage II (training starts on September 1st 2018), providingthe implementation of the Bologna tools in the educational process of the organization and orientation of training content on the formation of competencies demanded by the labour market.
Employees of the NIHE represent our country in the Council of CIS; the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee for Youth Affairs; the Pool of European Youth Researchers (PEYR), and the Group of national correspondents of the European Knowledge Centre on Youth Policy (EKCYP).
WELCOME TO BELARUS!
Welcome to the National Institute for Higher Education!
text by Ludmila Kozhuhovskaya
Vice-Rector for International and Scientific-Methodical Work
Of the National Institute for Higher Education (Minsk)
photo by Varvara Smahtina