Belarus students enjoy education at European Humanities University in Vilnius

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A European Radio for Belarus’s correspondent visits Vilnius to see with his own eyes how the students of the European Humanities University live and study in the neighboring Lithuania.

When you stand in front of the university building, you get an impression that you have come to a sanatorium, with the youth sitting with books on benches and a coniferous park and good-looking campus buildings around.

A Xerox copier stands on the first floor. It can be used by students free of charge. A computer center and classrooms boast state-of-the-art equipment to help the students from Belarus to obtain diplomas in 9 Bachelor’s programs.

It is not easy to get enrolled. The university administration is careful about the selection process trying to pick up only those who have a clear understanding of why they want to study there. According to Uladzimir Dunajeu, EHU’s vice chancellor, they try to “filter” students at the very early stages of the enrollment process.

“We do not want to create a huge formal competition also because it is difficult in technical terms. Entrance exams take place in Vilnius. At the same time, obtaining a Lithuanian visa remains a significant problem. That’s why we utilize a multi-stage selection method which allows bringing only the best enrollees for entrance exams. However, those who truly wish to get enrolled will be accepted at least from the second try,” Dunajeu said.

Apart from “internal” difficulties, many are worried with “external” issues like adaptation in a foreign country. This question is posed by the parents of would-be students in the first place. But, according to Nasta Matchanka, an international law sophomore, this is not a problem, because students start learning the Lithuanian language from the first year.

Nasta Matchanka: “Beginning from this year, we are also given an opportunity to continue learning Lithuanian at the second and the third years besides the preparatory course from the first year. As a result, we will get Bachelor’s decrees with the knowledge of the language of this country.”

Besides, the Belarusian students organize joint cultural events and debates with the students from the Lithuanian universities.

The students get a living allowance which, according to vice chancellor Uladzimir Dunajeu, is even higher than at the Lithuanian universities. Yet, he refused to elaborate on the exact amount. The students from Belarus also enjoy local benefits which their fellows inside Belarus have been recently deprived of. Students in Lithuania pay reduced fares for public transport, while most of the museums and other cultural centers are free of charge for them.

Lodging and feeding matters have also been resolved. Eduard Melnikau, the dean of the Mass Communications and Journalism department, boasted to the ERB correspondent that their university canteen was the cheapest one throughout the whole city of Vilnius. This has also been confirmed by vice chancellor Uladzimir Dunajeu.

“I think it is a great advantage of this university that students have a possibility to have cheap lunches. As for the dormitories, I want to warn straight away they also have wardens that resemble the ones in Belarus. So, conflicts take place sometimes, but we teach our students to live by the laws of this country,” he said.

Those who find their stipend allowances insufficient are allowed to get a part-time job beginning from the second year, according to Nasta Matchanka.

“This year, students are allowed to work 20 hours per week if they have free time,” she said.

Last year, the European Humanities University enrolled 40 students that were expelled for political reasons from state-run universities in Belarus. If there are such students this year, they will be accepted without entrance exams. But they are going to be treated equally with the rest of the students, the vice chancellor warned.

“We treat them the same way as the rest of the students. No doubt, they are the victims of academic repressions. At the same time, they bear the same responsibility for academic performance like the rest of our students,” Dunajeu said.

The European Humanities University plans to expand. 500 remote-learning students are planned to be enrolled this year. Besides, the university wants to start enrolling students from Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic countries that want to obtain a diploma recognized in Europe and the rest of the world. Those students would have to pay for their education.

The diploma, EHU managers say, could allow finding a job in any country of the world. For example, several graduates of the European Humanities University have been accepted for post-graduate courses at the Yale University and at the Massachusetts University. A former tourism student is currently employed by a tourism firm in Paris. There are similar examples from Prague, Budapest, Warsaw and Helsinki…

ERB’s FILE

The European Humanities University was established in Minsk in 1992. In 2004, it had to move to Lithuania where it has been in operation for two years. The university is now located in the center of Vilnius, where the Belarusian language could be heard even more often than in any town of Belarus. In 2006, the Lithuanian government granted the status of a Lithuanian university to the European Humanities University, with its diplomas now recognized throughout the European Union.

The university currently enrolls a total of 1500 Belarus-born students, who study in the Belarusian, English and Russian languages. Students also learn the Lithuanian language.

In 2007/2008 academic year, the European Humanities University welcomes applicants for the following Bachelor’s programs:

International law
Graphic design and media
Visual and cultural studies
Mass communications and journalism
Cultural heritage and tourism
Contemporary arts
Social and political philosophy
Political science and European studies
Belarusian studies: History of Belarus and cultural anthropology.