The higher education system in Armenia is presented by a number of higher education institutions, both state and private.
State higher education institutions operate under the responsibility of several ministries but most of them are under the supervision of the Ministry of Education and Science. In total there are 26 state higher education institutions, of which 16 with their 14 branches belong to the system of the Ministry of Education and Science (MES); 4 HEIs founded by interstate agreements and state participation, and funded by the MES; 2 HEIs in the system of the Ministry of Defense; one higher education institution in the system of each of the following Ministry/Bodies: Police, Ministry of Emergency Situations, Mother See of Holy Etchimiadzin.
Higher education is provided by many types of institutions: institutes, universities, academies and conservatory.
University: HEI providing higher, postgraduate and supplementary education in different branches of natural and sociological fields, science, technology, and culture, as well as providing opportunities for scientific research and studies.
Institute: HEI conducting specialized and postgraduate academic programs and scientific research in a number of scientific, economic and cultural branches.
Academy (educational): HEI, the activity of which is aimed at the development of education, science, technology and culture in an individual sphere; it conducts programs preparing and re-training highly qualified specialists in an individual field, as well as postgraduate academic programs.
Conservatory: HEI preparing specialists in the field of music, providing qualification development and postgraduate academic programs.
The state HEIs in Armenia are autonomous, not-for-profit legal state entities, which possess, utilize and manage the property allocated to them according to their mission and policies developed by the founder (the government).
The HEI independently defines its budget and the usage of the funds received from other non-state sources, including the size and amount of salaries and remunerations to be paid to the faculty and staff. The funds received from the state budget constitute only a part of the HEI’s overall budget and can be used for a specified purpose according to the regulations assigned by the legislation. The HEIs are also free in forming their internal organizational structure.
Tuition fee levels for both domestic and international students can be set freely by the institutions and money is retained without affecting the budget allocation from the government.
According to the Law on Education and the Law on Higher and Postgraduate Education admission and selection is carried out by introducing unified secondary school final examinations, which are held at “knowledge assessment centers” set up to replace the centralized admission examinations.
The academic year is usually composed of two semesters, beginning in September and ending in May. There are mid-term exams scheduled in October and March of the respective semesters and a final exam at the end of each semester.
The formal weekly workload (contact hours) that students are expected to carry out depends on the type of programmes and differs considerably from institution to institution within the country, but common practices are as follows: for Bachelor programmes-28-32 hours per week (sometimes up to 36), for Master programmes 16- 18 hours and for postgraduate (Doctorate) programmes-4-8.
Starting from 2008 all educational programmes in Armenia are based on the ECTS. Two universities started to issue Diploma Supplement to both Bachelor and Master degree programme students.
Internal systems of student evaluation and assessment are regulated by the HEIs themselves. Students’ learning outcomes are assessed on the basis of examinations and tests, which are conducted in writing or orally. The results of examinations are assessed by grading systems varying considerably among institutions (5, 10 or 20 -point marking scales, 4 scale A-F letter grading, etc). Final evaluation of graduates in state HEIs is conducted by state examination committees both through the comprehensive examination on specialty and defense of graduation work (diploma project, thesis or dissertation) or schemes. Sometimes only one of them is used.
Higher and Post Graduate Education Qualifications
The preparation of specialists for Bachelor’s, Diploma Specialist and Master’s degrees, as well as postgraduate degrees, including PhD student programme (research) is implemented within the framework of Higher Education. The main education programmes of higher professional education are conducted through various types of teaching: full-time, part-time or external education. The academic year, as a rule, starts on September 1st and is comprised of 2 semesters with 20 and 22 weeks of duration respectively.
The main education programme that prepares specialists for a Bachelor’s degree includes required courses and practice of general humanities and social-economics, mathematics, natural sciences and special professional disciplines, many of which contain elective and optional courses. To acquire the first degree, i.e. Bachelor’s degree, at the institutions of higher education, the applicant should have at least 4 years, while for medical specializations it is 5 years. The programme ends with a summative assessment and final paper defence. The Bachelor’s qualification is awarded upon successful completion of the course. The awarded qualification gives the right to practice the specialization (except medical) and progress into the next cycle-the Master’s degree.
Specialist Diploma: the main educational programme includes courses of general humanities and social sciences, mathematics, natural sciences and special professional disciplines, as well as provides graduates with various types of professional skills and specialized theoretical and practical courses, preparing for the occupational activity (the last graduates of this programme will finalize their studies at higher education institutions in 2010-2011 at the Yerevan State Medical University named after M. Heratsi). The duration of study is at least 5 years; for the arts and physical education students it is 4 years. The programme ends with an assessment, including the defence of a diploma thesis. The qualification of Diploma Specialist is awarded upon successful completion.
Master’s qualification is awarded to persons holding Bachelor’s or Specialist Diploma degree based on the results of a minimum one year of professional education programme. Graduates completing the Master’s programme are fundamentally prepared and have the knowledge, competence and skills necessary for scientific research, scientific-pedagogical activity, management and independent professional development. The degree provides access to post graduate Doctoral Studies, based on the results of the entry examinations of applicants.
A PhD student (researcher) is a person holding a higher education qualification (master’s or Diploma Specialist’s degree), who carries out Doctoral research to expand his/her theoretical knowledge and to prepare scientific thesis for pursuing a PhD (Candidate of Science) degree. Upon completion of at least a 3-year postgraduate study and a successful defence of a thesis, the PhD student (researcher) is awarded with a PhD (Candidate of Science).