The government of Belarus appoints and dismisses university heads, who collaborate with Belarus's KGB in monitoring student and faculty activities. Students are regularly expelled for expressing their views (the EU Observer cites approximately 700 such cases since 2006). Noting this factor, the European Students Union recently recommended against approval of Belarus’s application to become a member of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). As Allan Päll, Chair of the European Students Union, puts it: “Even though Belarus might fulfill formal criteria to join the EHEA, it should not become part of it as there is no such thing as academic freedom in Belarus.”
In response to urgent letters from the European Students Union, the Norwegian Ministry of Education issued a joint statement with ten other European countries in which they expressed common concern about violations of academic freedom in Belarus.
Päll observes: “In December 2010, around 600 activists—mainly young people and students—were put on trial and twenty Belarusian students were expelled from their university following the violently repressed protests against the election of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.”
Against this backdrop, EHU remains a beacon of hope for students from Belarus who seek a university where free inquiry and critical thinking are not merely allowed, but encouraged.