More than a 100 students of state-run Armenian universities rallied outside key government buildings in Yerevan on Monday in protest against a sizable increase in tuition fees paid by them.
The fee rises sanctioned by the Armenian government were announced recently following a meeting of the university rectors. In particular, students of the Law Department of Yerevan State University (YSU), one of the most expensive in the country, will now have to pay 800,000 drams (around $2,000) per academic year, up by 14 percent.
The rectors say that the measure is needed for raising the modest wages of their lecturers and making capital investments in the cash-strapped universities that have been only partly funded by the state since the early 1990s.
The protesting students rejected this explanation, saying that they and their parents struggled to pay their tuition even before the announced rises. They threatened to provoke a mass boycott of classes if the government refuses to keep the fees unchanged.
The demonstrators gathered outside Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s office in Yerevan, demanding a meeting with him. A senior official from Sarkisian’s staff came out of the building to try to discuss their demands. The students insisted on a face-to-face meeting with the premier, however.
The small crowd then marched to a nearby building housing the Ministry of Science and Education. A ministry official told them that Education Minister Armen Ashotian is planning to hold a roundtable discussion on the issue with student representatives. The protesters demanded that Ashotian meet them first.