In November 2013 the Open Society Foundations Armenia presented its report on the “Higher Education in Today’s Armenia” conducted by the CEU Higher Education Observatory. It was a focused review where the team of researchers, namely Dr. Liviu Matei, Senior Vice President and Head of the Observatory, along with his two colleagues, Ms. Julia Iwinska, researcher and higher education expert at the Observatory and Mr. Koen Geven, PhD student at EUI, an education expert, looked at the current situation of higher education in Armenia today in order to provide an external and independent analysis of the problems with deteriorating education quality, lack of accountability and transparency despite donor funding and extensive reform programs. The report addresses aspects of the Bologna reforms, of which Armenia has been a signatory to since 2005, and concludes that Armenia is not on a genuine path, mostly due to the politicized nature of the education system, a lack of an authentic program of reforms; pervasive corruption; and massive emigration of young talent.
Here are some significant quotes from the report:
“Armenia has a reservoir of bright and highly motivated students. Many of them, however, leave the country, in general never to return. Emigration of talent is a mass phenomenon with major negative consequences.”
“At present, the Armenian higher education appears to function as an overly controlled system, which slows down if not disables the change process.”
“The Armenian higher education system serves as a model for the larger Armenian society, sometimes with negative consequences, including from the perspective of open society values. This involves the acceptance of corruption as a “normal”, everyday practice; a certain disregard for merit and work-based performance; a pervasive sense of hopelessness regarding public engagement – and in particular regarding the use of open dialogue in public affairs.”
“Given the nature of the educational model in Armenian higher education, most students are not adequately prepared for the professional life after graduation; many of them do not have the skills required by the Armenian economy, public service or other professional sectors (p.5).”
On November 14th, the report was presented at a public event, which hosted university representatives, ministry and government officials, representatives of the National Quality Assurance Agency, donor organizations, other institutions involved in education in the country. The Foundation had hoped for healthy public debate on the problems highlighted in the report and ways to solve them. Unfortunately, this did not really happen, since the Ministry and Agency representatives were too defensive in their standings. It is a saddening fact that cooperation is next to impossible, as officials would rather close their eyes to the existent problems takes place, while no real work is carried out for improving the situation. We invite you to read newspaper articles covering the discussions following these links:
- The credit was spent ineffectively; we have deviated from the Bologna process;
- Armenians are talented, but self-realize outside of Armenia;
- Armen Ashotyan: “The Soros Report had a Tendency of ‘Warming up Hands’ on Our Problems”;
- Բաց հասարակության հիմնադրամներ – Հայաստան կազմակերպության պատասխանը ՀՀ Կրթության և գիտության նախարար Ա. Աշոտյանին.
Among the main conclusions, the team also put forward recommendations that OSF-Armenia could embark on. Among them, creating a public space for debate and informed discussion, advocacy strategies and developing bottom-up smaller-scale projects that will instigate ownership of the reform among practitioners and beneficiaries of these reforms and education as the whole. These and other recommendations will direct OSF-Armenia to work on areas of accountability and transparency, mobilizing the education and civil society communities to achieve legislative and practical changes to address the issue of executive control that will lead to more accountability of the system.
Higher Education Support Program of OSF- Armenia has been supporting the education field in the country since 2001. Over more than a decade the Foundation directed its support to universities and libraries to assist them in developing and implementing policy procedures to regulate the internal mechanisms, update curricula and content to meet contemporary education and labor market needs, build capacity for education professionals and many others. Since 2012 the HESP Program ceased this direct support having seen no substantive results over quality per se irrespective of numerous projects aimed at quality assurance implemented by its and other donor support. The Foundation then commissioned the above noted research to apprehend the reasons undermining the quality of education. More at Open Society Foundations – Armenia
Anna Gevorgyan is a Higher Education Programs Coordinator with Open Society Foundations-Armenia.
 See the full report at http://www.osf.am/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/OSF_HE_report.pdf
 This includes governing structure of universities with politicians and oligarchs in the majority representation of the boards (50%), plus politicized student councils, which add up another 25%; little state funding (9-30%) , but total financial, political and social control over universities with little involvement in the education and research. Recent criticism about this came in the World Bank report on Addressing Governance at the Center of Higher Education reforms in Armenia accessible from http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2013/01/17748657/addressing-governance-center-higher-education-reforms-armenia.
 L.Matei, J.Iwinska, K.Geven. Higher Education in Armenia Today: a focused review. 2013 CEU Higher Education Observatory. Budapest