Cash Squeeze for Armenian Universities
|Publisher||Institute for War and Peace Reporting|
|Publication Date||24 June 2011|
|Cite as||Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Cash Squeeze for Armenian Universities , 24 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e0b28932.html [accessed 18 December 2014]|
Hardly any new students are applying because pupils are spending another year at school.
By Arpi Harutyunyan - Caucasus
CRS Issue 597, 24 Jun 11
Universities in Armenia are going be under severe financial pressure this year, as they have received only a tenth of the applications they get in a normal year.
The number of applicants taking the entrance exam has fallen to just 1,209, down from 18,000 last year.
Universities face the prospect of sacking staff to save money, although they deny that there will be mass redundancies.
Sasun Melikyan, head of the universities department at the education ministry, said officials had always expected a fall in numbers because of a policy change that means pupils spend an extra year at school. Armenia changed its school system in 2009 to fit in with the Bologna Process, which sets common educational standards across 47 European states.
Even so, the number of applications is less than half the most pessimistic prediction, put at 3,000. It leaves university departments short of cash, and some like the environmental chemistry faculty at Yerevan State University without a single new student seeking a place.
"Most of the applicants this year are people who left school in previous years. They either failed [earlier] entrance exams, or else they've been studying at an intermediary institute to get a professional qualification and now want to go to university," Melikyan said. "The applicants there are also people from the diaspora, foreigners, and demobilised soldiers."
If all 1,200 applicants pass their exams, that will leave 19,700 unused places. In total, there are 2,400 state-sponsored university places and 18,500 for fee-paying students.
Melikyan said the change would be difficult, but was unable to predict how much money each university would lose as a result. He said the government would not be providing any extra funding.
"I don't think the public universities will suffer serious problems. In any case, there won't be mass cuts in the number of employees," he said.
The hardest-hit universities are likely to be private ones, which lack the resources of Yerevan State University.
Gladzor University, for example, earns 25-30 million drams, 67,000-81,000 US dollars, from its 1,000 students in a normal year, but this year it will earn just half that at best.
"The private universities, as distinct from public ones, are self-financing, so this year is going to be a real challenge," Gladzor's rector Zhora Jhangiryan said.
At Yerevan State University, it will be the faculties that attract the fewest applications that will be the hardest hit, according to Vachagan Galstyan, secretary of its applications committee.
"There are concerns about the position of the natural history faculty, as well as of several departments in the Germanic and Romance languages faculty," he said. "The nuclear physics department, which opened in the physics faculty this and is intended to have 20 state-funded places, only has one applicant. The state had been planning to provide work for graduates of this specifical department."
Even the most popular faculties are significantly under-subscribed. There are just 53 applicants for 110 places to study law at the Yerevan university, and 28 applicants for the 80 places in the international relations faculty.
"If no one gets into a faculty, then of course there won't be any first-year students. And if just one or two, they will presumably amalgamate similar departments," Galstyan said.
In reality, not all applicants will make it through the entrance exam. Some 25 have already failed the initial tests, even though the centre responsible for setting the exam said it was making the questions easier than it normally would. Many more are likely to fail the second stage.
Karo Nasibyan of the Assessment and Testing Centre said, "There are applicants who are completely unprepared for the tests. They didn't even know how to fill in the application forms. During the exams, we had to explain to many of them how they should fill in the exam papers."
Arpi Harutyunyan is a freelance reporter in Armenia.