Hundreds of students from Yerevan’s Brusov State University have protested a decision to merge their university with two others in the Armenian capital.
The government intends to merge the university with the Armenian State Pedagogical University (ASPU) and the Armenian State Institute of Physical Culture and Sport (ASIPC). It is unclear when the prospective merger will take place.
Students first began mobilising last week after the draft decision was leaked. Their concerns were validated after the government confirmed its intent to merge the three institutions.
However, according to Armenia’s Minister of Education, Culture, Science, and Sports, Vahram Dumanyan, the universities will continue to operate on their own respective campuses, and the structure of the institution will be unchanged until the government implements its plan of building an ‘academic city’.
Earlier in September, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced plans to merge eight state universities — Brusov, ASPU, and ASIPC included — and to relocate them to the town of Ashtarak, just northwest of the capital.
Brusov’s rector, Karine Harutyunyan, opposed the decision, and has claimed that she was only recently informed of the merger plans. In response, Dumanyan said that Harutyunyan, the heads of the other two universities, and their staff were already aware of the merger.
‘I am surprised by the rector’s statement that it was a surprise for him’, said Dumanyan.
Katarine Bazoyan, the president of Brusov’s student council, said that the students of the university would not stop the protests if the project continued.
‘This was a shock for us, we did not expect such a decision. If we were admitted to Brusov State University, why should we join another university?’, said Bazoyan, adding that the students’ opinions ‘should be taken into account’.
Although student life on the three campuses will remain unchanged for now, Dumanyan confirmed that there were plans to cut administrative staff, including two of the rectors.
The students said they feared the reorganisation would negatively affect the quality of their education.