By Emil Danielyan
A group of rectors of private universities met with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian on Wednesday to complain about the state of higher education in Armenia, the government said on Wednesday.
Markarian’s press service said they expressed concern at unspecified “unresolved problems” in government regulation of the sector that has been tightened in recent years. They were also said to criticize some provisions of an Armenian law on graduate and post-graduate education.
It was not clear which concrete grievances the private universities have. Markarian was quoted as telling their chief executives that his cabinet is open to their proposals to amend the law and expedite other changes. But the government will embrace only “acceptable” proposals, he said without elaborating.
There are more than 60 private universities in Armenia. They have long complained about being in a disadvantaged position vis-à-vis the state-run institutions of higher learning which remain much more prestigious and are perceived to offer higher educational standards.
The number of private universities grew dramatically until the government moved to regulate them in 2001. The law in question introduced their mandatory registration with the Education Ministry. Under that law provides, a university “accredited” by the government has a status equal to one enjoyed by state-run colleges. A mere government “license,” by contrast, will simply allow a private university to exist, with the state taking no responsibility for the quality of its education.
A number of universities faced closure last year after failing to meet government requirements.
The government decided to overhaul the process at the beginning of last year after a corruption scandal at an Education Ministry department in charge of university licensing. The head of the department, Robert Gabrielian, fled Armenia in August 2001 after being charged with bribery.