2021 March 24

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Daily news wrap-up

Mar/24/2021: Major education reforms approved: Bachelor-Master-Doctor, credit system, European standards, university governance __ Anti-Corruption Committee is formed ___ Defamation bill amended ___ Martial Law lifted ___ Onik vs Government __ Culture & sports ___ Stats about wounded soldiers __ ...
by ar_david_hh

Your 17-minute Wednesday report in 4179 words.

education reforms approved / university governance / European standards / scientific freedom / special status for YSU / Bachelor-Master-Doctor / credit system / science & education get closer

The following events took place over the span of several months.

Education Minister Dumanyan in Parliament: The current laws about education and science were written 15-20 years ago and there is a need to update them. These reforms aim to strengthen integration with the European Higher Education area, reform the autonomy of universities and scientific organizations, and secures academic freedom.

It will allow the institutes, which currently operate under the National Academy of Sciences, to function freely, join scientific networks, or become part of a university's scientific arm.

Back in 2012, the Education Ministry ordered a study around higher education. In 2015, a relevant bill was drafted, but it wasn't in-line with international standards and didn't promote young scientists.

After today's reforms, there will be a 3-tier system: Bachelor, Master, Doctor. The size of a university's governing board will shrink. There will be new admission mechanisms, including the Armenian Language exam being required for specialties.


Postgraduate programs will meet European standards. They will be included as a third degree of qualification, graduation of which will earn Ph.D.

The main educational programs, depending on the level and grade, can be completed remotely.

Students will control the intensity of their curriculum, depending on their capabilities, busyness, and financial status.

Multiple universities, including foreign ones, can create a joint education program and award qualifications.

Some subjects can be taught in foreign languages to benefit the internationalization of the education system.

Public funds for a scholarship will be granted not per university, but per academic field.

More: https://youtu.be/osxBVYNSRzM , https://youtu.be/qQccV859BEA

University governing board will shrink from 32 to 9 members to increase efficiency. 5 board members appointed by Education Ministry and 4 by professors and students. State officials or politicians won't be allowed to become a member.

When it comes to the rector's appointment, there will be three nominees, all nominated by the university's board. The Education Ministry will pick one of those nominees (this was later amended, read below).

LHK MP: why exactly 9 members, and can the university be free if the majority of board members (5) are appointed by the state?

Minister Dumanyan: the limit of 9 is related to the number of universities we have in Armenia. We have very many for a small Republic like ours [there are apparently issues with winding qualified people].

As for the majority being appointed by the state, if it was up to me, I would like all 9 to be appointed by the state because if the university was founded by the state, then the state is 100% responsible for the university. Responsibilities come with rights. We decided that 5/4 would be fairer [some critics say the government should increase university, in return].

LHK MP: the Constitution says universities should have autonomy. This bill takes it away. It's unconstitutional.

Minister Dumanyan: I believe the word autonomy is being mistaken for something else. University's autonomy begins and ends with the autonomy in implementing its statutory goals and objectives. As for the appointment of a board member, the latter only ensures that .... [gets interrupted, time's out]

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/206316 , https://youtu.be/jJxkP4pDHZI , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043706.html

QP MP: Why does the law give Yerevan State University a special status? It's not done anywhere else in the world. It's a soviet-era habit.

Minister Dumanyan: not everything should be copied from the US, France, or England. We have our history, traditions, and after all, a university isn't just a facility with a stamp and a bank account. YSU, with its 100-year history, is the locomotive of our higher education system. Others have historically relied on it.

LHK MP: nonsense. This is like an "academic racism", discrimination towards other universities. You're acting like a YSU representative. You are displaying racism.

Minister Dumanyan: watch your language. Go complain about racism in international courts.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/206312 , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/206320 , https://youtu.be/yPbKLM53G8c

Minister Dumanyan: the academic institutes become more independent. The governing council will have 8 members: 4 appointed by the institute's academic council, 1 by the institute's academy presidency, and 3 by the state.

The presidency remains, but it doesn't interfere in administrative and financing matters.

Academies will be able to form networks with their own councils and presidency.


QP MP Mkhitar Hayrapetyan: there will be a credit system. The student can study the subject at another university and receive the credit required for that year or for that subject. Universities will recognize each other's credits.

The issue of this or that professor being good or bad will be resolved over time. When the student pays for education, they should have a choice to select a professor who they believe provides better quality education. Professors who cannot compete will be naturally pushed out of the system. We are resolving the competition issue.

This is just part of important changes, yet some of our opposition colleagues are busy speaking about yellow press material. Another colleague claims the law is unconstitutional, as if we haven't read the Constitution. Open Constitution and read the 38.3 clause. It says the university's autonomy is regulated by the law. Aren't we discussing the law today? (he was responding to opposition's claims that it's unconstitutional for the state to appoint 5 out of 9 board members)

https://factor.am/337236.html , https://youtu.be/Yzx4NRHu4GE

A group of students at Theater Institute oppose the reform bill at its current form and demand amendments. It's about reducing the size of governing board from 24 to 9, and the Ministry having a majority 5/4 in it.

Another complaint is that the bill allows those students who study for free, to continue to study for free if they score 80% in exams. The critics believe it's unfair towards those who pay for education.


Others believe that if the state wants to have a majority stake in the board, it has to provide the majority or full funding for the university.


Some students raised concerns amid media rumors that the bill will merge Theatrical & Cinema Institute with Pegadocical University. The Theatrical's rector denied the rumors as false.

QP MP Sisak said the bill does not name any mergers, and that a group of experts will meet students to discuss their concerns as part of the public discussion before the bill's second and final vote.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043215.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043245.html

The leaders at the National Academy of Sciences met the Education Minister Dumanyan to discuss the reforms. "Since the bill's introduction in 2019, we held several meetings with the Ministry and our concerns were addressed," said Academy chief Radik, "However, some issues remain. The bill should clearly define the role and functions of the Academy as a scientific structure. We are against the merger of laws that regulate higher education and scientific institutes. While the two have many things in common, they develop with different logic."

Minister Dumanyan responded saying that the reason behind the aforementioned merger of the laws is to have a competitive and advanced science. "The difference is in the approaches. The Soviet-era model often mentioned by academics, when the academy received large funding, can not exist today. We must be realistic and understand that separating education from science is not practical."

Minister continues, "The governing body of scientific institutes will have 8 members: 5 appointed by the scientific community, 3 by the state. The institutes will be given freedom of activity to join consortiums, a network of universities, manage themselves independently, and receive funding.

We eventually have to review the financial and operational efficiency of over 30 institutes that are part of the Academy. It is necessary to find a solution to the accumulated problems today, no matter how difficult those solutions are."


Weeks later, the bill was amended and re-introduced for preliminary approval.

Education Minister Dumanyan: we have recently amended the bill after meeting with National Academy of Science members, rectors, etc. There were some issues, around which the stakeholders have reached a general consensus. An option was proposed, acceptable by everyone, relating to the institutional accreditation of universities.

We still have disagreements over the 5/4 appointment ratio in the university board. I still believe a 9/0 would be more appropriate (state pays for uni, the state appoints board members) because there is a conflict of interest when a rector has to present a report to their subordinate professor.

As for the appointment of rectors, we amended the process. In the initial version of the bill, it stated that the university board votes to choose 3 nominees who are presented to Ministry; the latter picks the more suitable one. Under the amended version, the university board itself will choose a rector, who will be certified by the Ministry.

The amended bill will require the rectors to have a scientific degree and 5 years of relevant experience to be eligible. Every university will refine on what else to require.

The science budget will increase in 2022. //

When asked whether there are plans to privatize some universities, the Minister said he doesn't think it'll work under today's conditions, but he left the door open because "in many countries, the most advanced universities are private."

The committee approved the draft bill. It's headed to Parliament. The Minister is open to amending the bill with suggestings even after its passage.


Minister Dumanyan presented the most recent amendments. The upper age limit is increased from 65 to 70 for University's rector and board chairs. The chairs will not be capped at 2 consecutive terms anymore.

The universities themselves will put forward qualification requirements for a rector's candidate, with the only federal requirement being a scientific degree and 5-year experience.

https://www.1lurer.am/hy/2021/03/04/Փոփոխություն-ռեկտորի-ընտրության-դրույթում-նախարարը-երկրորդ-ընթերցմամաբ-ներկայացրեց-«Բարձրագույն-կրթ/427024 , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/208169

Another amendment will give "freedom to students" by allowing them to form Student Unions instead of Student Councils. The university can create multiple groups.

Official: The Student Councils were often monopolized by one group, making other students feel left out from participation, who would eventually drop, leaving the Council a monopoly in the hands of one group.

With the reforms, another group is given the right to also form a body. The federal law does not regulate their quantity or shape, leaving it to universities to decide. //

After the reforms, the university's educational programs must be accredited. Some subjects will be allowed to be taught in a foreign language while preserving Armenian as the base language.

Armenian language exam becomes mandatory for bachelor's degree programs.

Applicants give an exam, receive the grades, then choose which university - in the relevant field - they want to study at. Their government subsidy is then redirected to that university.

https://factor.am/350707.html , https://factor.am/351493.html

Parliament voted 79-36-2 to approve the reforms.


Tags: #EducationReforms #education #science #academy #StudentUnion

bill approved: upper limits of defamation and insult penalties will increase

The followed events took place throughout the past several weeks.

QP MP Alen Simonyan proposed increasing the punishment limits for insults from current ֏1M to ֏5M, and for defamation from current ֏2M to ֏10M.

BHK MP Gevorg Petrosyan said he would go as far as to support imprisonment for defamation. He received some support from several QP MPs, who said "25 out of 28 EU states have already made defamation a felony." Not everyone agreed. Another QP MP said it's unacceptable to make it a felony, "it would be a step backward."

ex-BHK now-Ind MP Urikhanyan supports a felony punishment for defamation.

Another QP MP Badalyan suggested removing the upper limit altogether because "a defamation can cause damages far greater than the proposed fees."

QP MP Tunyan complained that the civil discourse was pushed aside by foul language and defamation on social media and that action is needed, although he isn't sure whether this bill will help. He will vote yes anyway.

LHK leader Edmon Marukyan referred to himself as one of the most defamed people on the internet. He is concerned that the bill will only punish the print media while the online trolls will get away.

QP MP Alen responded to LHK Marukyan, saying "A month ago I invited you to discuss a law to ban the troll farms but you rejected my offer. 5 months ago you claimed you'd publish a list of fake accounts operated by the government; you still haven't. That's defamation on your part. Do you have single evidence that the government uses troll farms?"

Prime Minister's cabinet weighed-in. They found QP MP's proposed punishments too harsh and suggested reducing the upper limits to ֏2M and ֏3M respectively (down from 5 and 10). "Even the current ֏2M penalty is rarely enforced by courts. They usually impose ֏50-150K fines. We rarely see maximum punishment. There needs to be a balance between freedom of speech and protection of dignity."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043071.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043089.html , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/206431 , https://factor.am/337519.html , https://factor.am/337545.html

government and MPs argue over the bill

The author QP MP Alen Simonyan amended the bill to reduce the initially-proposed punishment size. The proposed penalties are reduced from 5/10 to 3/6 million drams. In other words, the fees would be 3/6 instead of the current 1/2.

The reduction came amid a complaint by the government that it's too harsh and could possibly discourage journalists from discussing certain topics. The government came to that conclusion after studying European laws.

The Justice Ministry representative informed that the government wants the penalties reduced further down to 2/3 instead of the proposed 3/6. The Parliamentary committee held a debate over the suggestion but denied the government's offer.

weeks later

The government complained again that setting the upper limit to 3/6 is still too high and could "interfere with freedom of speech."

The bill authors earlier argued that the upper limit is not necessarily what every violator would have to pay, and that judges usually set a penalty size of a few hundred thousand Drams.

The Parliament approved the bill. The maximum penalty for defamation is increased from 1-2 million to 3-6 million.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046287.html , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/209589 , https://factor.am/351740.html

Tags: #DefemationBill

bill approved: Martial Law is lifted

The ruling party joined the opposition and voted 118-1-1 to lift the remaining parts of Martial Law.

The only MP who voted against lifting is ex-BHK and currently Ind. MP Gevorg Petrosyan. He believes there is still a threat to borders so the Martial Law should stay.

We now have more insight that could explain why he quit BHK: he is an avid supporter of Robert Kocharyan and believes "Kocharyan is the only man who can pull Armenia out of this situation". BHK chief Tsarukyan had earlier refused to publicly support Kocharyan despite joining the former regime on the streets. Tsarukyan's refusal to publicly praise Kocharyan was followed by Petorosyan's exit from the party. He is now considering retirement from politics.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046953.html , https://www.panarmenian.net/arm/news/291441/

bill approved: Anti-Corruption Committee is formed

Parliament voted 80-38-2 to approve a government bill to create a new Anti-Corruption Committee. It will be a centralized institute that handles a case from start to finish to improve efficiency, rather than involving several agencies. It'll also "replace" the Special Investigations Service (SIS).


Anti-corruption: NSS busts prison staff with bribery

NSS report says: a Major serving at the Armavir penitentiary took a bribe from an inmate's relative in exchange for smuggling illegal items into a cell. He was arrested during the transaction.


former CoGS Onik Gasparyan escalates the legal fight, files a "felony report"

Onik was recently accused of politicizing the army and fired. He filed a lawsuit against president Sarkissian and premier Pashinyan to have the job back. The lower court ruled that Onik's termination should be temporarily suspended while the court makes a final verdict.

Pashinyan office responded, saying the termination was finalized days earlier and there is no ongoing termination process that could be suspended, "it's a done deal". This angered opposition leader Vazgen Manukyan who said Pashinyan should be prosecuted for "disobeying the court order."

Legal circles questioned the validity of the court ruling because Onik's termination was already finalized, and the president had earlier refused to ask Constitutional Court to hear the case. The legal agency tasked with executing orders basically said "there is nothing to execute". Onik was not given his job back.

Yesterday Onik filed another report against Pashinyan and MOD Vagharshak, this time a report of a "felony crime." Besides demanding to have the job as army chief back, Onik argues that Defense Minister Vagharshak broke a law by appointing a wrong individual as the temporary army chief.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047004.html , https://www.tert.am/am/news/2021/03/22/Onik-gasparyan/3560251 , https://factor.am/351592.html

Parliament held a vote to approve/reject Cassations Court judges

Weeks earlier the Parliament held a heated debate with the president of the Supreme Court over his post-war political statement that was deemed as anti-Pashinyan. The ruling party chastised the chief judge for "being politicized", and as a sign of protest, boycotted the election of two Cassations Court judges.

The second vote was held today. The Cassations Court candidates went through a Q&A. Candidate Arsen Mkrtchyan was approved as a judge with 87 votes. The second candidate Armen Haykyants (former BHK member) only received 11 votes and was rejected.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046967.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046982.html , https://factor.am/351549.html , https://youtu.be/0ZQkFzpaWSE

COVID stats

5775 tested. 1164 infections. 313 healed. 14 deaths. 12436 active.


Healthcare Minister Avanesyan about vaccines:

The government is helping private businesses to establish business ties so they can purchase vaccines, too.

There is a global race to get the vaccine. We are doing everything we can through one-on-one and COVAX negotiations to obtain more vaccines. We already have a preliminary agreement with COVAX.

600 doctors and high-risk patients have been vaccinated with Sputnik-V so far.


movie about Pope and the Armenian genocide

Discovery+ will soon feature the movie "Francesco" about the Pepe. It was premiered last year. The producer is Armenian-American prominent doctor Eric Israelyan. The movie features Pope's visit to the Tsitsernakaberd genocide memorial


ex-Premier of Italy and ruling party MP Matteo Salvini:

(Context: Italian Premier held a conversation with Turkey's Erdogan. Ruling MP expressed criticism towards Turkey.)

You are trying to achieve a miracle by convincing the Turkish regime to behave appropriately. I'd like to remind you that Turkey not only exited the Istanbul Convention about protecting women's rights and violates other rights, violates people's rights, but they also deny historic facts. Italy cannot sit at the same table with Turkey which has not yet recognized the Armenian Genocide.


prominent Italian public figures urge Azerbaijan to release the POWs


update: High Tech Minister apologizes to journalist

A reporter saw the Minister dining at a cafe and began asking questions on why he was there. The Minister grew agitated and threw fists. Today he apologized again, to all the reporters and specifically the assaulted reporter Paylak. "I have great respect for any profession, including journalism."


Tavush border village schools were renovated

Movses, Aygepar, and Chinari villages have newly renovated schools with centralized heating systems and other accommodations. It's part of the government's plan to improve the quality of life in border regions.


stats: wounded soldiers, how many disabled, how many need prosthetics, aid stats

1000plus.am soldier's insurance fund provided a report. 1605 families have so far received financial compensations for losing a relative during the 44-day war.

194 soldiers have so far received aid for 1-2 stage disability. 1046 families of missing soldiers received aid (this isn't the number of currently missing soldiers, as some of them have since been found deceased or alive).

Earlier we learned that 9,000 people received injuries, ranging from light to serious wounds. From them, 1,000 received a disability status.

500 have a stage-3 disability. 350 have stage-2. 150 have stage-1, 120 of whom lost a limb and need prosthetics.

(some of these numbers can change over time)

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1046946.html , https://factor.am/351775.html , https://youtu.be/PXCnXSpcnhM

Tags: #wounded #injury #WoundedSoldiers

prosthetics are ready

8 former soldiers began experimenting with their new "state of the art mechanical prosthetics", imported from Europe. A Duch expert was invited to assist.

Photos: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1047017.html

SU-30 fighter jet and missiles

The opposition criticized the government for purchasing the new Russian Su-30 jets without its missiles. The government said they didn't have time to imported the new missiles before the war, and that "those who criticize today should have purchased these jets and missiles years ago when they were in charge."

Then, some people recalled older reports which showed that the new jets did, in fact, have missiles. The government clarified that old-generation missiles can be attached to new jets, and that this was the case in the old videos. The new missiles were scheduled to be imported later.

Opposition General Mosi recently criticized the government for not attaching the old missiles to new jets for use during the war. As a reminder, Armenia used SU jets during the war but not the newest models; at least one Armenian jet was shot by the Turkish army.

As for why the new jets weren't ready for war, the military earlier said that it takes a while to train pilots to the point when they are ready for combat.


Armenia and Russia discuss army modernization

MOD Vagharshak and CoGS Gerasimov discussed ongoing cooperation and the planned widespread reforms in the Armenian military. Russia will send an envoy to negotiate.

MOD in Parliament: today we de-facto deal with the Turkish-Azeri army which have merged. To counter the threat, we must develop our army structure and our cooperation with Russia. We are also reviewing the role of the officer and incentives.


400 public sector workers take part in shooting competition

Education & Sports Ministry: This competition not only proves once again the importance of a healthy lifestyle but also improves the level of physical fitness of the participants, thus contributing to the readiness to defend our homeland if necessary. //

The shooters were split into 58 groups. Some of them were from president's office, ministries, and the government office.


rumors and rebuttals: Armenian truck drivers on Georgia-Russia border checkpoint

Georgian authorities denied rumors about an Armenian driver being killed at the border checkpoint.

Ind. MP Babajanyan raised the issue of 700 drivers being stuck in Russia's Vladikavkaz near the Georgia border. "The issue with food was resolved after a phone call. Is anything being done to help the drivers?"

IRS chief responded saying their representative is in touch with drivers. "The issue began 15 days ago due to poor weather. One of our drivers ran out of money, others had food shortages."

https://factor.am/351585.html , https://factor.am/351636.html , https://factor.am/351646.html

Deputy PM Mher about the ongoing negotiations about unblocking regional trade:

I think we have some progress. The expert groups are currently working on it. One is handling the questions regarding the physical infrastructure, while the other discusses the legal and security issues.

Railway and roads are the main topics. We aren't discussing the map that was earlier circulated by the Kommersant outlet. It's about the restoration of Soviet-era infrastructure.


Venice Commission is examining two proposed bills

They are reviewing the newly proposed bill that would allow the reduction of the Human Rights Ombudsman's annual budget, if necessary.


They are reviewing the proposed electoral code reforms. They decided to treat the hearing as an urgent procedure. The time is of an essence amid concerns that the reforms might not pass before the June 20 snap elections.


Artsakh government approves agricultural subsidy program

Seeds will be partially subsidized, financial aid for greenhouse operators, help with collecting crops, subsidies to install anti-hail nets.


Artsakh to fight against irresponsible drivers

Vehicle traffic sharply increased in recent times, prompting Artsakh authorities to urge the drivers not to play shenanigans with license plates and drunk driving.

Today they proposed a bill to make drunk-driving without a license a felony. More specifically, refusal to submit a sobriety test will be a felony because under current rules the drunk drivers could simply refuse to test.

Violators will lose the right to hold public offices in addition to penalties. Needs approval by the Parliament.


European Union welcomes Armenia's decision to ratify a treaty against capital punishment

Armenia becomes the 89th state to ratify the international convention, which was first signed in 1989. Although the Armenian constitution already prohibits the death penalty, the ratification seals the deal, said the EU.


Armenia's Henrik Mkhitaryan included in FIFA list of ten seasoned stars who deserve a World Cup


Miss Universe 2020

Armenia will be represented by Monica Grigoryan, a runner-up of the 2019 Armenian competition.


today in history

1802: British scientist Richard Trevithick patents the steam engine

1898: American bicycle producer Alexander Winton creates one of the first American motor vehicles named "Winton". It was sold for $1,000 (you could busing;e y 55 with a bitcoin). A few years later he would compete against Henry Ford in racing matches.

1972: movie Godfather premiers


end of report

The accused are innocent unless proven guilty in the court of law, even if they "appear" guilty.

News archive: http://www.armeniapedia.org/wiki/Daily_Anti-Corruption_Reports

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Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/mcdfye/mar242021_major_education_reforms_approved/

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