Minister demands exclusion of Russia from Bologna Process

Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine Serhiy Shkarlet has called on the Bologna Follow-Up Group (BFUG) and the key structures of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) to suspend Russia from intergovernmental and institutional cooperation.

Addressing BFUG and the structures – European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR), European University Association (EUA), European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE) and ENIC-NARIC Networks – on 1 March, he said Russia’s continuing presence in the Bologna Process was unacceptable following its invasion of Ukraine.

“The European Higher Education Area is built on the fundamental principles of democracy and the rule of law. These principles have been unequivocally reinforced in the EHEA vision in the Rome Communique 2020, signed by 48 ministers responsible for higher education in all the European Higher Education Area countries,” he said.

Call for unity

“The Russian Federation has demonstrated to the whole world that it violates all the principles and conditions of cooperation among countries, by destroying everything in its path. I am convinced that only united can we have impactful European education.”

He said that at 5am on 24 February 2022 the Russian Federation had started the war against Ukraine and his country was faced with massive bombing, shelling and invasion by troops.

“The Bologna Process cannot stand aside from the ruthless aggression and remain silent at this turning point for the whole world. Ukraine considers it unacceptable to continue Russia's presence in the Bologna Process and asks for an immediate and clear reaction of the EHEA to the war that the Russian Federation has started against Ukraine.”

Support for suspension

Sjur Bergan, who is the former head of the Council of Europe (CoE)'s Education Department and currently still represents the CoE at BFUG, in advance of the CoE agreeing its position, told University World News: “The European Higher Education Area is an intergovernmental process, in which countries are represented by their governments. While recognising the courage of those members of Russian civil society, including its academic community, who speak out against the war in Ukraine, it is difficult to see how Russia could remain an active participant in the EHEA after having launched a full-scale invasion of another EHEA member, Ukraine.

“I would therefore personally support a suspension of Russia’s right to representation in the BFUG and other EHEA structures, such as working groups.”

He said he also believes the BFUG should encourage all members and consultative members to offer support for higher education in Ukraine as well as students and staff who have to flee the war or are unable to return to Ukraine because of the war.

Foreign students

“This support should extend to the foreign students, many of whom are from Africa, who have to flee from Ukraine because of the Russian invasion.”

On 28 February Shkarlet held an online meeting with Minister of Education, Science and Sports of Lithuania Jurgita Šiugždiniene, the Minister of Education and Science of Latvia Anita Muižniece, and the Minister of Education and Research of Estonia Liina Kersna. After the meeting the three Baltic states’ ministers voiced solidarity with Ukraine.

Writing in University World News this week, former Ukraininan minister of education and science Serhiy Kvit, who is now head of the National Agency for Higher Education Quality Assurance of Ukraine and a professor of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, reiterated Shkarlet’s call for Russia to be excluded from the EHEA and Bologna Process, both at state and institutional levels.

State propaganda

“As a result of state propaganda, Russian universities have ceased to be centres of critical thinking and few intellectuals in the country have protested against the crimes against humanity that the Putin regime has perpetrated,” he wrote.

“We need the EHEA’s support in the aftermath of this invasion so that we can become more active, influential and competitive members of the EHEA. That means greater financial support for Ukraine to develop its higher education system so that it can distance itself from the post-Soviet world, modernise and become more embedded in the international system.

“The Ukrainian system also needs to change and adopt a new attitude towards higher education and scientific research since it is only by creating genuine possibilities for the development of high quality new knowledge, educating future leaders and specialists, implementing innovations and the conditions for creating intellectual ecosystems that we can create real prospects for the development of Ukrainian society,” he said.