The students were welcomed by activist David Petrosyan, a member of "YSU Restart" student-civil initiative, and thanked the youth for their active participation in organizing and conducting discussions.
D. Petrosyan first presented the format and main topics of the discussion, underlining that the representative of each institution should present the situation at his university and existing problems related to the active participation in mass protests.
"We have been informed that many students and professors at a number of universities are discriminated only because they have participated in civil disobedience. Therefore, I urge representatives of higher educational institutions to address these issues to help us understand our future plans," - said the speaker.
Then the activist mentioned that today a revolution has been carried out in Armenia, and the youth has actively participated in it: "It is a crucial time in our country, which is honorable for every young man. Yes, we have to create a good and favorable atmosphere at our schools and take steps to improve the quality of education. We need to have competitive education and meet our professional qualities not only in Armenia but also in the international labor market."
D. Petrosyan underlined that during the discussion there will also be a reference to the targeted use of the money transferred to the Armenian Youth Foundation, as well as the problems of non-political universities and student structures.
"The university should have a high level of transparency in its activities and accountability to the student. Every year YSU pays a large sum to the Youth Foundation of Armenia. Not only scholarships are provided to some students, but also bribes are distributed. The university should be accountable to the student how and for what purposes the resources of the HEI are used," - D. Petrosyan added that serious work should be done to liberalize universities and student structures to be non-political, so it is necessary to be consistent in order to implement planned ideas.
YSU Restart representative Vahan Kostanyan said in his speech that such meetings are very important for students, so they should be continuous.
"Two months ago I announced during the discussion of the draft on Higher Education Law that YSU and other HEI do not belong to any political figure. Today we are continuing the process of liberalization of the universities. The next steps should be the solutions to the problems of universities and the education sector in general. Today's situation is a result of misconduct. Now students need to organize civic education and upbringing classes so that the student understands, why goes out in the street and why. We encourage HEI leaders to take into account the students' opinions. None of the leaders today is in line with their position, they have to put down their powers, otherwise we know how to fight them. Student workshops should also be undertaken in order to ensure that these student structures are established. Now, of course, it is not clear whether they have become opposition or they are "neutral" again," - said V. Kostanyan.
Answering the question how to struggle against the politicization of the university, if the President of the Board of Trustees of YSU is still Serzh Sargsyan , the speaker replied: "Yes, he continues to occupy this position, but that's a matter of time. There will be many changes."
Then the member of the initiative, Sargis Babayan, touched upon the issue of the right of deferment, who detailed the amendments made in the law, in particular, the right to a deferment.
"It is already clear that there was a revolution in the mind and atmosphere. Many issues should be discussed in a different atmosphere, with other approaches and expectations. In fact, last autumn the right to a deferment was removed, after making some changes, the majority voted in the National Assembly and accepted the draft. The initiative "For Science Development" has long fought, but there were no real results. Under article 22, paragraph 5, the Armenian government has decided to grant only exceptionally talented students, while the requirements and standards are so high that it is almost unavailable for students," - said S. Babayan. He expressed hope that today's debates will be the basis for changes.
The organizers of the discussion, answering the questions of the participants, stated that they should develop a package of proposals and submit them to the Government of Armenia.
"It is important to realize that first you have to wait for the changes to be made in the ministries and then make concrete recommendations. We have time to work out a package of proposals and amendments through discussions," - emphasized D. Petrosyan.
Since there were a lot of questions about the right to defer, David invited the attendees to ask Sargis Babayan questions on the virtual platform, via Facebook.
Member of "YSU Restart" D. Petrosyan mentioned that their struggle is not against individuals, but for ideas. And if there are people who will be opposed to academic freedom, then they will refer to them only. It is also important to regulate the work of the "Restart" groups established at other universities.
In the second part of the meeting, at D. Petrosyan's initiative, students of the higher educational institutions made groups and began to present the problems and suggestions of changes that are prioritized for their university.
Hayk Makyan touched upon the problems of Komitas State Conservatory. He spoke about the fact that the institution needs a moral and aesthetic revolution. One of the primary problems is the student's free self-expression. Proper management of finance and property is also a major issue. The whole property of the Conservatory should serve its students.
Representative of Yerevan Medical University named after Mkhitar Heratsi Elina Khanoyan presented dissatisfaction with the educational material. According to her the books are old, Soviet, half-duplicates - all this is unacceptable in the field of medicine. Tuition fees are high, but they do not have appropriate training materials. These are, of course, interrelated with finances, and students are worried that the increasing fees which do not solve academic issues.
It was suggested that by the end of the semester, the management team will present a report where the expenses of the university will be recorded so that the student understands where his/her paid tuition fee goes.
David Abrahamyan, a student at Yerevan State Institute of Theater and Cinematography, in his speech highlighted the incorrect organization of admission exams, the poor salaries of lecturers and the work of the professors who work with that salary. In the context of state funding reduction, lecturers' dedication is invaluable.
It was proposed to start a cultural revolution with the students of the Conservatory, and to unite people around the aesthetic taste.
Shushan Harutyunyan, representing Armenian National Polytechnic University, underscored the problem of actualization of the educational program. Students often do not know the world of science and are informed about the conferences after their completion.
Andranik Margaryan, a student at the Armenian State University of Economics, spoke about the mismanagement of the funding provided by the Youth Foundation and suggested conducting an international independent audit at the university. He also touched upon the issue of lecturers' rating, and the students do not know about the results. Speaking about student councils, Andranik Margaryan mentioned that it would be good to have other student groups at the universities, which will ensure pluralism.
According to Zaruhi Hovhannisyan, a student at Yerevan State Academy of Fine Arts, there are very few specialized subjects at the university and a lot of humanities. Referring to the problem of professional practice, she mentioned that they are practicing in Yerevan Zoo, painting animals, which they actually do not need. According to her, this issue would be greatly revised.
Aram Petrosyan, a student of Yerevan State University of Architecture and Construction, talked about the low salaries of their university professors and their low professional qualifications. Referring to the student councils, he mentioned that there is no point in the Law on Education on Student Councils on how to hold Student Council's leadership election.
Mher Korkotyan, a student at Khachatur Abovyan State Pedagogical University in Yerevan, noted that they also had a "Restart" initiative at their university, which would be very pleased to cooperate with other similar initiatives at other universities. He also suggested setting up a "Recast" initiative. According to the student, today it is necessary that the student councils functioning at different universities be non-partisan. Astghik Kirakosyan, a student representing the same institution, noted that their student council was partisan.
According to Heghine Papoyan, a student at the Armenian National Agrarian University, one of the most important problems of their university is that they focus on the absences more than the student's professional skills. She also mentioned that there is a lack of qualified specialists in their labs.
Levon Chukaklyan, a student representing the problems of the faculties of humanities specialties at Yerevan State University, touched upon the issues of accountability of the university and the tuition fees at different faculties. According to him, the university should be accountable for its financial resources, as well as should indicate on what basis the tuition fee changes. He also touched upon issues related to scholarships for students who study free of charge, as well as paid liquidation period. According to him, information on student exchange programs is posted on the websites of the various faculties late and students are not able to participate in the programs. Touching upon the problem of the disabled students at the university, he mentioned that the ramps are missing.
Avet Kareyan also spoke about the faculties of humanities professions of YSU. He spoke about the problem of reducing professional practices. According to him, the practice should not be optional. He also spoke about the low quality of non-professional subjects and the provision of foreign languages. He touched upon the lack of Armenian-language literature and the question of passing the interim written exam in one week.
Arshak Hovhannisyan, representing the problems of the faculties of natural sciences at Yerevan State University, mentioned that the faculties of natural sciences need to rejuvenate the professorial staff. He said that it is necessary to create a new fund as the Luys Foundation has suspended its activities.
Representative of the Armenian Student National Association, student of the French University of Armenia Manya Grigoryan said that the Armenian National Student Association expresses its readiness to support such initiatives and help to make the necessary reforms at the universities.
In the end of the meeting students made various suggestions, as well as agreed with the members of the "YSU Restart" initiative to continue similar meetings.