For weeks, applicants to state higher educational institutions of Armenia that have not passed the centralized entrance exams complain and protest against the new admittance regulations. Much of the complaint is due to the centralized nature of the system, which the Ministry of Education is trying to reform. Despite the fact that most of the higher education is paid, the number of seats for each university’s faculty is predetermined jointly by the Ministry and each university. Before 2020, applicants used to apply for several university and/or faculty options with the first option prevailing if the applicants passed the highest exam score. If there were too many applicants for the same vacant seats, the reception commission assigned the applicants to the second option specified in their applications and then the third and so on. In these cases, again, assignment was competitive, and was done based on the highest exam scores.
The Ministry of Education finds this method unfair towards those students who are kicked out of the system if an applicant with a second option takes over applicants with first option application only because the former have higher scores. Thus, the new regulation for university admittance specifies that competition will take place among those applying for the first option and not between subsequent options with higher scores. Second and subsequent options are considered only if the given faculty seats were not filled with first option applications.
Many students and their parents have taken to the streets protesting against these regulations as a result of which, they claim that school graduates with high scores have not been admitted to their preferred faculties of second option and even third and fourth this year, while some have been admitted with lower scores.
Minister of Education Arayik Harutyunyan, in an interview to the public TV channel of Armenia, explained as follows. “The former authorities were reluctant to make these reforms because there used to be a couple of “elite” faculties which were the top preferred ones. If applicants did not pass these ones, there were auxiliary second options where the applicants would hoard with their scores, leaving behind those students who genuinely wished to study exactly in that faculty. For example, for years the faculty of theology has been filled with applicants that failed to be admitted to the Law faculty. We know that these students have never intended to study theology, but what happens next is that within a year or so, many quit these faculties, or graduate with no intention to specialize and work in their professional education. It is unfair to those who initially intended to specialize in this field… Therefore, competition will be based on the first options and only in the event of unfilled seats, will the other options of the applicants be considered… There are many painful reforms like this that we have to carry out,” said Harutyunyan.
To the question on the main complaint of the applicants that they were not informed about these changes, Minister Harutyunyan responded that applicants had to be informed, if not by the Ministry’s statements by media, by the online application form to say the least, where they coul proceed to submit the application only if they had read and understood the regulation.
The issue was raised to the National Assembly too. Several universities, such as the Linguistic University after Brusov, has added up seats and additional applicants have been admitted. Nonetheless, dozens of students will sue the Ministry of Education. Their attorney, Alexander Kochubayev, claims that with the first suit they will dispute the Government’s decision on the new admittance regulations. With a second suit, they will demand reversal of admittance decisions. They will also demand a measure to secure their claim, that being admittance to the university before the final decision of the court.
Minister of Education, Arayik Harutyunyan claims that this year, the number of students that completely failed to be admitted to state universities is even lower than last year, when the new regulation was not in place yet. Harutyunyan also believes that much of the public complaint is being used by supporters of former President Robert Kocharyan, who politicize the issue and amplify it. Robert Kocharyan is now charged for overthrowing the constitutional order in Armenia.