Karen Mnatskanyan: “There are nearly 4,000 Diaspora Armenian students studying at universities in Armenia”

In an interview with Hayern Aysor, Head of the Division for Relations with Diaspora of the Department of Foreign Relations and Diaspora at the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Armenia Karen Mnatsakanyan provided details about the problems of the Government of the Republic of Armenia with granting 70 free spots to Diaspora Armenian students.

Hayern Aysor: Mr. Mnatsakanyan, when did the Government of the Republic of Armenia start fulfilling the decision on allocating spots to young Diaspora Armenian students under the state order?

Karen Mnatsakanyan: The Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Armenia started implementing this targeted and goal-oriented policy in 1996 upon the decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia.

Every year, under the state order, the Government allocates 70 spots to those Diaspora Armenian applicants who wish to pursue their studies in Armenology at universities of the Republic of Armenia.

Besides providing young Diaspora Armenians with the opportunity to receive an education at no cost, the program is also aimed at helping solve the issue of preservation of the Armenian identity within Armenian communities of the Diaspora. After receiving quality vocational education and acquiring professional skills, the young Diaspora Armenians return to their respective communities and are able to help their respective communities preserve the Armenian identity and organize the community and education.

Most of the Armenological subjects are taught at the Armenian State Pedagogical University after Khachatur Abovyan in Yerevan, particularly the pedagogical subjects, as well as at Yerevan State University, Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory, Yerevan State Academy of Fine Arts and sometimes the National University of Architecture and Construction of Armenia, by exception.

This year, due to circumstances, we have tried to focus more on the applicants who have come from countries of the traditional Diaspora. We have provided special support to and created special conditions for the Syrian-Armenian students who have moved to Armenia as a result of the Syrian war.

The RA Ministry of Diaspora, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Armenian General Benevolent Union make great contributions to reimburse the tuition fees of Syrian-Armenian students.

Hayern Aysor: Which subjects are considered Armenological subjects?

Karen Mnatsakanyan: Of course, pedagogy has been and still is a strategy, followed by linguistics, philology, national songs and music and specializations related to dance instructors and performing arts (directing, arts) and, to a certain extent, architecture.

Hayern Aysor: What is the geography like? From which countries do Diaspora Armenian students come to Armenia?

Karen Mnatskanyan: Most of the students come from the Near Diaspora, especially from Javakhk. We have applicants from the Russian Federation, Lebanon, Iran and, of course, Syria, namely our compatriots who have moved to Armenia due to the Syrian war. Overall, nearly 1,500 Diaspora Armenians have benefited from this decision of the Government of the Republic of Armenia.

For two years, the spots under state order (envisaged by the order of the Minister of Education) have only been envisaged for Diaspora Armenian students who have applied to universities in Gyumri. The goal is to reduce migration risks in the field of education, support the development of student and education centers in Gyumri and consider the fact that the city is a center for education. However, this approach didn’t help meet the expectations.

This year, we have also decided to allocate some spots to the Diaspora Armenian applicants having applied to the branches of the Armenian State Pedagogical University after Khachatur Abovyan in Gyumri and Vanadzor, as well as to the branch of Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory in Gyumri who have met the set requirements.

Hayern Aysor: Mr. Mnatsakanyan, how many Diaspora Armenian students are studying at universities in Armenia?

Karen Mnatskanyan: There is quite a wide coverage of universities. If we take into consideration the fact that there are also young people receiving an education at private, interstate and intermediate vocational education institutions, there are nearly 4,000 students.

I must also mention the fact that young Diaspora Armenians take into consideration the features of their respective countries of residence when choosing professions. For instance, the students from Lebanon or Syria choose to study architecture, while students from Russia choose economics. It is safe to say that the Diaspora Armenian applicants of almost all the countries choose medicine as a profession, even foreigners.

We are currently working on specifying the number of Diaspora Armenian children attending schools every year.

Gevorg Chichyan

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