On behalf of the Governing Board of the European Humanities University, let me react to the recent interest of the Belarusian service of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty in our University community, reflected in a number of last week’s articles.
In the earliest days of the University’s forced re-location to Vilnius in 2004, international donor support for a high-quality and innovative higher education for young Belarusians seemed an impossible dream, but almost at once American partners, the MacArthur Foundation, Eurasia Foundation and Open Society Foundation came forward to match the overwhelmingly positive hospitality of the Lithuanian Government in giving EHU its new home. New supporters across the European Union and Nordic Council joined in to maintain financial assistance to the unique project of EHU.
But inevitably as the Global political and economic agenda experienced dramatic challenges in the past decade, so did the essential funding priorities of our several partners. For instance, when the economic crisis hit Europe, Greece could not sustain its previous financial support; similarly, the migration crisis has led, they tell us, to the recent decision of the Nordic Council of Ministers. EHU is grateful to be supported by a family of donors, across both sides of the Atlantic and also those who have remained our partners despite changes in the political agenda, among them - the European Commission, agencies and foundations, like Open Society Foundations, the Swedish International Development Agency and others.
In response, the University community has updated its Strategic Plan to increase operational efficiency, created a brand new Core Curriculum, and brought in a more effective form of academic governance. Major financial cuts have also been implemented although those entailing loss of staff will not show up positively in the Budget until redundancy costs are worked through.
As a beneficiary of international donor assistance, the University is naturally obliged to ensure to its donors that its operations are transparent and cost-effective as shown though the publication of annual accounts (hardly a feature of any Belarusian counterpart), international quality assurance procedures, and independent auditing. When it comes to the recent Report commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers and carried out by Deloitte Lithuania, I have to note that the then Chair of the EHU Board, Dr Daniel Tarschys, brought a series of significant objections both to the process of the audit and the findings in the initial version of the Report to which neither Deloitte Lithuania nor NCM have provided any response. They have now issued another version of the Report which is open to exactly the same objections, so, following the legal advice of Washington D.C.-based Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, I find, as Acting Chair of the Board, that I am unable to accept the Deloitte Lithuania Report in its current form, and so am currently taking steps to issue a formal challenge to the process and findings of the latest version of the Report to the Nordic Council.
Acting Chair, Governing Board of the European Humanities University