Workshop C: New Links to Centre and East
Over the past decade higher education in Eastern and Central European countries has been subjected to managed changes which maybe we have not all been fully aware of, and private institutions now contribute to higher education next to the classic or public ones. I am very pleased that Dr Voldemar Tomusk, who is a well-known expert on this field, has prepared to share his views on the developments with us this morning. Dr Tomusk is from Estonia and worked in various posts in universities and in the government before joining the Open Society Institute in Budapest.
There is one important point I have to stress before I move closer to the core points of my paper, which I have struggled with over the past several years. It is that I cannot deal with the Central-East European region as a single entity. I thought that this time had already passed; that already, some of the former Communist countries are members of NATO, others belong to the OECD, and several will join the European Union shortly, while other countries are in different positions. However, in this paper, I am supposed to look at the entire region, which is a little problematic.
It is not very easy for me to make comments on the paper, which I liked very much. There are several points on which I would like to be polemical. Let me first say that my own experience comes from Poland, to some extent also Hungary, and the Czech Republic, but I have very little experience in the former Soviet Union, and this makes my situation here rather difficult because I have a feeling that a lot of what you have said would be more relevant to Russia and the former Soviet Union than to other countries, although I may be mistaken. You have said yourself that you would not like to consider the whole region of Eastern Europe as homogenous. On the other hand I don’t want just to say that Poland is different, because it is not very helpful to say such things.
Europe is in fact larger than people think. It stretches further to the East than we sometimes remember. Western European and American people rarely consider how East Europeans cannot always gain access to education and public discussion. Within the other Eastern European countries, access to the West depends on how close they are and how well the relationships are established. In Berlin we were discussing programmes to involve Eastern European universities. Courses should be taught in English because it is not very realistic to think that people can learn Czech or Hungarian in a short time and go to these countries for a year to study.