A joint venture between two universities in Belarus and Lithuania is allowing students to earn advanced degrees in property management, with the convenience and practicality of distance learning.
Belarusian State Technological University, in partnership with Lithuania’s Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, offers a Master’s Degree program in property management with European-based course offerings, a flexible timetable and a unique synthesis of theory and practice to over 100 Belarusian, Lithuanian and foreign students. In the 2014-2015 academic year, only Belarusian students were enrolled in the program.
The program allows students to earn two diplomas online, one from each university. But even the online degree requires at least 10 hours of face-to-face classes. To obtain two diplomas, students must attend courses and/or intern at both universities, receiving at least one-third of total credits at each university. Each university offers eight of the 16 courses, delivers half of the lectures, and supervises half of the Master’s theses.
Launched in 2011 with a small USAID grant, the program has awarded more than 50 graduates a double Master’s Degree from both universities, which allows them to learn and deploy best Belarusian and European practices to further develop the national system of property management in both countries.
The grant was part of USAID’s Promoting Business and Economic Development through Building on the Capacities in Education and Research project, which promotes the development of business education in Belarus.
Success hasn’t come easy. The two partner universities had to overcome a number of challenges resulting from differences in Belarusian and Lithuanian legislation and educational standards. Ultimately, they found a way to bridge complex accreditation procedures and overcome language and cultural barriers. As a result, the number of applicants for the program has increased annually.
To ensure that international standards are met, the classes are delivered by leading local and European professors as well as practicing experts, such as those from the National Cadaster Agency, both in person and online. To promote academic mobility, the program requires the students to obtain at least 30 of 90 required European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System points in each of the host universities while offering a flexible schedule that allows the students to balance their work and studies.
Wide use of information technologies, good student mobility and high practical orientation are the key success factors, believes Nikolai Siniak, director of the Property Management Master Program. “To stay on top, you should always strive for innovation, explore the best practices in the field, offer new courses in a timely manner, and adjust your program to the current needs of business,” he explained.
In less than three years, a small grant awarded to Belarusian State Technological University grew into an innovative international graduate program. The university team is optimistic about the future. Near-term plans include expanding the program by launching a scientific laboratory for innovative land management based at the Belarusian university, further increasing academic mobility and introducing biometric and Global Information Systems technologies into the program.
Since 2006, USAID has invested in the development of business and economic education in Belarus. More than 200 business educators have improved their professional skills through trainings, conferences and workshops. Two professional associations established through USAID today promote reforms and enhance cooperation between business education providers and private business. Over 5,000 students have directly benefitted from new business education courses, updated curricula, and innovative teaching materials and techniques, including distance learning, case studies and business simulation games.