Armenia is now completing its gradual transition from the Soviet-era system of 10-year schooling to a 12-year education cycle that will produce first graduates next year. Virtually nobody will graduate from recently established Armenian high schools during the outgoing academic year.
This will have profound implications for over two dozen state universities operating in Yerevan and other parts of the country. The Armenian Ministry of Education expects only 1,200 young people to apply for a total of 21,000 first-year places available there. By comparison, the ministry reported 17,000 applications last year.
With no graduates coming out of high schools this summer, the 2011 applicants will mainly be those who failed entrance examinations last year as well as young men demobilized from the Armenian army.
Interestingly, admission applications are also expected from students who are already enrolled in state universities and have to pay for their studies. The lack of competition would almost certainly allow them gain one of some 2,500 university places exempt from tuition fees. Education Ministry officials say some students have already quit their colleges to pursue higher education anew and free of charge.
The ministry’s Evaluation and Testing Center (ETC), which administers ongoing centralized entrance exams for all state universities, has made university enrollment even easier by somewhat simplifying admission requirements.
“There are applicants who can’t write their names but want to go to university,” ETC spokeswoman Gayane Manukian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Wednesday. “That is their right, but the simplification of the tests is relative because if an applicant is not ready, they will have a hard time anyway.”
Yerevan State University (YSU), the largest and oldest in Armenia, said its History Department has so far received the largest number of admission applications: 40. Some YSU departments specializing in physics, chemistry and other natural sciences have attracted no interest at all yet.
Another major institution, the State Economics University of Armenia, had less than applicants as of Wednesday. Not surprisingly, the head of its admissions unit, Mikael Tavadian, was unhappy with the education reform.
“This mechanism should have been devised more carefully and thoroughly before being applied,” Tavadian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “And this [situation] will last for six years. Our undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate will definitely suffer.”