By Ruzanna Stepanian
Education Minister Sergo Yeritsian denied on Monday a press report that he expelled a representative of the National Security Service, the former Armenian branch of the Soviet KGB, from a government body overseeing the problematic admission examinations at state-run universities.
The weekly newspaper “Yerkir” claimed late last week that the security officer, Hovannes Karumian, stopped attending meetings of the Republican Admission Commission after falling out with its other members appointed by Yeritsian. It said the minister ensured Karumian’s removal with the help of the leader of his Orinats Yerkir party, parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian.
Yeristian said there were no disputes inside the commission, but did not deny that Karumian stopped participating in its work mid-way through the exam session which began in July and drew to a close last week. “There was no such incident,” Yeritsian told reporters. “It’s just that
each member of the commission himself decides how to carry out his duties.”
The deputy chairman of the commission, Victor Martirosian, claimed for his part that Karumian skipped its sessions “for lack of time.”
The fact that security officials sit on the commission which has final say in the competitive selection of students of institutions of higher education was not previously known to the public. The ostensible purpose of that is to prevent endemic bribery and nepotism that has for decades marred entrance examinations in Armenia and other parts of the former Soviet Union.
Virtually every exam period has been followed by corruption allegations denied by education officials and university professors. Armenian governments have repeatedly overhauled admission procedures over the past decade. Yeritsian said he has not yet received any serious complaints from disgruntled applicants or their parents.
About 8,000 people have been admitted this year into state-run universities and colleges across Armenia. Less than half of the places are covered by the government’s tuition scholarships.