Belarus has many institutions of higher education. They are equivalent to colleges and universities in other countries. Belarusian State University is the largest university in Belarus. Universities provide higher education in all fields, although admission to universities is based on the results of rigorous examinations. Students must pass the entrance exams to be admitted to a university or institute of higher education. An extremely rigorous system of competitive examinations governs admissions to higher educational institutions. Fewer than one in five students are accepted. Once admitted, however, students are given stipends and are guaranteed jobs upon graduation. Tuition is mostly free.
Higher education reforms in 1987–1988 were intended to link higher education more directly to the economy, improve the quality of scientific research, restrict student admissions while improving student support, and provide higher educational institutions with more modern technology and new laboratory facilities. The major significance of the reforms was to move toward the democratization of school administration and the “humanitarization” of the educational process in terms of students’ individual aptitudes and needs.
A wide range of private schools, colleges and institutes have been introduced in Belarus of late. There also were curriculum change and in 1992 some higher educational establishments began changing tuition.
Now Belarus is a country with a high educational level. There are 38 state higher educational institutions and the Academy of Sciences which was founded in 1929 to carry out research in different fields of science. The total number of students in our Republic is about 2,5 million (25 percent of the population).
Specialized secondary and higher education is available for everyone according to his abilities. People can get a higher education through the full-time, evening and correspondence courses.
Along with state higher schools existing in the Republic many non-state institutes of higher learning have been opened in different towns. Thousands of young people who for some reason couldn’t enter any state educational establishments have got an opportunity to continue their studies and get a higher education. Tuition in non-state institutes is not free of charge, it is rather expensive. But everybody knows that money spent on the brain is never spent in vain.
The academic year is divided into two terms, each ending in examinations. The students attend lectures and practical classes and have every opportunity to develop their talents and gifts. Seminars, or discussions, often based on selected readings, provide opportunities for students to exchange views with instructors and with one another. Some courses, especially science courses, require work in a laboratory, where theory learnt in the classroom is applied to practical problems.
Many courses require a “term paper”, often simply called “a paper”. A term paper is based on research students have done in the library or the laboratory.
At the end of the term students have their examination period. There also can be “mid-term” examinations as well as regular tests or “quizzes” (short tests). These examinations and tests demonstrate whether students are doing their assignments; they also measure, for both student and professor, how much and how well the student is learning. Almost all examinations are “closed book” exams.
Each term is crowded with activity and the vacations between the terms – from seven to ten days in February and two months in summer – are mainly periods for intellectual “digestion” and private study.
Sport has become an essential part of students’ life and they can do any sports they like. The conditions of students’ studies and life are constantly being improved, many of them live in the hostels.
The higher school today does not only check the students’ knowledge but develops their abilities to think creatively and to work productively. Today’s scientific and technological progress demands of the higher school graduates to be prepared to deepen their knowledge individually and adapt themselves quickly to the changes in the branches of science or industry they have chosen as their specialty. This means that the future specialists must be given a good grounding in basic subjects. In order to obtain practical experience all the students of higher schools have practical training at different enterprises, schools and offices.
Universities are also educational centers offering refresher courses for teachers at tertiary and specialized secondary institutions as well as for specialists working in non-academic institutions and research organizations.
The teaching staff of a university is divided into departments. Each department is headed by a dean, or chairman, who is usually a professor. Under the dean are other professors, associate professors, or readers and lecturers.
The student body of a higher institution is divided into junior and senior students or the first and second year(s)/third, fourth, and fifth year(s).
Most students receive grants from the government. They may also help support themselves by taking part-time jobs while attending classes. In senior courses, students work under the supervision of a senior lecturer and are supposed to defend the project before they get a diploma (degree).