Educational institutions all over the world realize the importance of promoting international cooperation. In order to stay competitive in such fields like education, research, innovations it is no longer enough to count on only internal resources. Exchange of experience, knowledge sharing, benchmarking provide possibilities for universities to constantly remain updated on modern know-hows.
New opportunities for improving the quality of higher education in Belarus are provided by different international programs and projects. Among them there is the project of the EU Program ERASMUS + CBHE “University Teaching and Learning Enhancement” / UniTeLE, which has been implemented since 2019. The project coordinator is Linnaeus University (Sweden).
In the framework of the ERASMUS + UniTeLE project, a consortium of Belarusian universities has conducted a higher education quality research. The purpose of this research is to identify areas for improving the quality of higher education in Belarus.
The research was carried out on the basis of a sociological survey of a representative sampling of teachers, staff and students of six Belarusian universities (more than 350 respondents from Minsk, Gomel, Brest, Gorki, Polotsk, Grodno were interviewed). Both SWOT analysis of higher education quality in Belarus and focus group of possible improvement were performed. The discussion was attended by work groups of 25 leaders, teachers and students from each of the Belarusian universities of the project consortium.
The following fundamental research results should be noted. Among the strengths of Belarusian universities are: specialization in the regions, the system of additional adult education, and practical experience of teachers (2/3 of respondents). 58% of respondents are confident in the advantages of innovative educational technologies used by teachers, 47% indicated a low intensity of innovation implementation. Respondents noted the high level of Hard Skills competencies of the teaching staff and insufficiently of Soft Skills competencies for both teachers and students. The respondents identified outdated educational technologies and methods and the content of curricula as the fundamental weakness of Belarusian education.
The following areas of quality improvement have been identified as the most important for Belarusian universities:
-the development of Soft Skills competencies of both teachers and students to provide their close interaction;
-the development of Soft Skills competencies among students to provide their close interaction with employers (the development of job search skills, entrepreneurial activity);
-the introduction of active teaching and learning methods, the development of interactive educational technologies;
-the inсlusion of students in the process of education quality internal assessment;
-systematic assessment of teachers, including the process of applying for a job, teacher academic development planning (HR management).
For the practical improvement in the suggested areas, it is advisable to create Life Long Learning Centres and Centres of Academic Development of teachers in Belarusian universities, as well as a student-oriented quality assessment system. To improve the quality and competitiveness of Belarusian education, it is also advisable to develop international cooperation and networking among universities. The positive experience of such projects as TEMPUS ECOTESY, ERASMUS + UniTeLE, ERASMUS + BELL and others, can contribute to such cooperation and interaction.