The education sector in Armenia is represented by two types of educational establishments: general (Preschool establishment and School) and professional (Preliminary Professional Educational Institution – Technical School; Middle Professional Educational Institute – College; Higher Education Institution (HEI) – University, Institute, Academy and Conservatory). Post-graduate studies are available within HEIs as well as in scientific institutes.
In 2006 Armenia converted to a three level 12 year general education system having the following sequence: elementary school (4 years), middle school (5 years) and high school (3 years).
The general principles of legislation in the tertiary sector are determined in the framework of Law on Education (LE)adopted in April 1999 and in Law on Higher and Postgraduate Professional Education adopted in 2004. The university or college status as an organizational entity is regulated by the Law on State Non-Profit Entities adopted in October 2001.
According to the Law on Higher and Postgraduate Professional Education (LHPPE) and subsequent Government Decree the 2-cycle system (Bachelor – 4 year and Master – 2 year) was introduced in Armenia at the system level from 2005-2006 academic year. LHPPE envisaged “Mandatory implementation of credit system into the higher education system shall start from 2006/07 academic year”, nevertheless, due to actual unreadiness of HEIs, the Ministry of Education and Science shifted the start of introduction of credit system to 2007/08 academic year.
The following types of Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) are operational in Armenia:
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 researches and studies.
Institute: HEI, conducting specialized and postgraduate academic programs and scientific researches 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 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 main external stakeholder that claims significant formal power and influence in Armenian tertiary education sector is the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Armenia which is the authorised state body for education and responsible for developing and implementation of state policy/strategy and legislation in tertiary education.
At present, the right to main decision making within the academic community is mostly reserved to the institutions of higher education. They are autonomous in determining the main spheres of activity, adopting budgets and supervising execution thereof, introducing new majors and upgrading the existing ones, adopting curricula and teaching methods. Rectors and deans are now elected by the academic community of each institution rather than being appointed by the Ministry as was the practice under the soviet regime.
Among the institutions responsible for the organisation and administration of the HE system are the State Licensing and Accreditation Service – the only intermediate body established by the Ministry by operating in the area of the central accreditation system – and National Center for Professional Education Quality Assurance Foundation (ANQA), established on December 28, 2008, as an independent foundation for promoting quality education at tertiary level.
There are also two main representative bodies in the tertiary education system: the Council of Rectors of State Higher Educational Institutions and the Council of Rectors of Private Higher Educational Institutions, which are advisory bodies to the Ministry.
The external review of quality assurance of HEIs is done by the National Center for Professional Education Quality Assurance Foundation (ANQA) – an independent foundation aimed at promoting quality education at tertiary level, being established on December 28, 2008. ANQA is founded and subsidized by the Armenian Government and is projected to be financed through entrepreneurial initiatives. It is governed by the board of stakeholders and is independent of the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) and institutions at tertiary level. Among the objectives of the center are to accredit quality of the educational programmes and provide the decision to the MoES for state accreditation; make academic audit of HEI, evaluate and accredit HEI, provide the decision on accreditation to the MoES for state accreditation of HEIs, as well as evaluate quality assurance systems of HEIs and make recommendations, etc.
The Universities themselves are involved in the development of internal mechanisms for quality assurance. They are becoming increasingly introspective and analytical about their strengths and weaknesses and need to develop a culture of constant improvement through periodic evaluation.