The order by Minister of Education and Science Armen Ashotyan to remove Suren Zolyan, Rector of Yerevan State Linguistic Union named after Brusov, from his position emphasizes once again the fact that the higher education system in Armenia is in intolerable condition. The order also reflects the desire of the Executive to establish direct control on academic institutions and shows the Ministry’s condescending attitude towards the faculty and students of the University.
The dismissal of the rector, which took place without the decision of the governing body of the University - the Board of Trustees, is suspect, to say the least, from the point of view of corresponding to the law. Moreover, the order creates the impression of disdain not only towards the governing collegial body but also towards the whole principle of self-governance of universities. Zolyan’s dismissal once again puts the spotlight on the contradictory situation in which the universities find themselves and their dependence on the Executive, as was the case when the status of state non-commercial organizations was conferred upon them. It is also of concern that the reason for which Zolyan received a strict reprimand was the fulfillment of his duties as a Council of Europe (CoE) expert. Because Zolyan had left for the CoE event as an expert proposed by the Government of Armenia, to see him punished by the same Government of Armenia for fulfilling those duties is not only strictly illogical, but it is also an expression of disrespect towards the CoE and its operations.
This whole story regarding the dismissal is a testimony to the fact that in parallel to all the assurances of loyalty towards the Bologna process, a precisely opposite set of developments has taken place in Armenia. Instead of reorganizing the governance of higher education institutions in Armenia to put them in harmony with European standards, any elements of self-governance in universities have been meticulously destroyed. The boards of trustees have ended up under the control of the Executive both de facto and de jure. State officials have become the chairpersons of the boards of trustees of all the leading universities. Unfortunately, this usurpation of the higher education system by the Executive under the cover of “reforms” and “Europeanization” went unnoticed both by the staff of the universities and the donors financing those reforms. It is symbolic in this sense that the dismissed rector is from the university where a certain ground for reform had actually been laid.
We, the undersigned, express our profound disagreement with the way in which Suren Zolyan’s dismissal was organized, we condemn the governance mechanisms currently seen in universities and we demand –
- an immediate and complete rejection of all legally suspect decisions
- a resolution to the current situation through an open and transparent process
- urgent reform to the governance system for universities, including academic independence with real guarantees, not just formalities.
Larisa Minasyan, Open Society Foundations - Armenia
Gevorg Ter-Gabrielyan, Eurasia Partnership Foundation - Armenia
Boris Navasardian, Yerevan Press Club
Stepan Danielyan, Cooperation for Democracy Centre
Stepan Grigoryan, Analytical Centre for Globalization and Regional Cooperation
Levon Barseghyan, 'Asparez' Gyumri Journalists Club
Avetik Ishkhanyan, Helsinki Committee of Armenia
Artak Zeinalyan, 'Rule of Law' NGO
Artur Sakunts, Vanadzor Office of Helsinki Citizens Assembly
Sona Ayvazyan, 'Transparency International Armenia' Anticorruption Centre
Elina Poghosbekyan, Media Diversity Institute
Gagik Avagyan,“Partnership and Democracy” NGO
Sona Hovhannisyan, “Mijnaberd” NGO
Nazareth Nazaretyan, DVV-international – Armenia
27 April 2012