• ATHENA Project

    Fostering Sustainable and Autonomous
    Higher Education Systems
    in the Eastern Neighbouring Area

  • Focus

    University autonomy and funding reforms
    in Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine

  • Objectives

    Transfer of good practice
    Promotion of inclusive approaches
    Capacity building in university management


Armenian university leaders discuss priorities for autonomy reform at ATHENA Workshop

The ATHENA project held its final Country Workshop on 6 March 2014 at Yerevan State University in Armenia. Those in attendance heard the conclusions of EUA policy analysis of the Armenian higher education system, as well as presentations from a range of international experts. Armenian stakeholders also had the opportunity to give their perspectives on the national reform process and the ways in which greater autonomy could be achieved.

The  event follows similar events in 2013 in Moldova and Ukraine, attracted over 100 national delegates, including the Deputy Minister for Education and Science, other government officials, university leaders, academic staff, representatives of civil society organizations and students. It was co-organised by EUA and the Armenian project partners. All presentations are available on the event page on the EUA website.

The workshop was opened by Aram Simonyan, Rector of Yerevan State University, and Karine Harutyunyan, Deputy Minister for Education and Science, who talked of their shared commitment to introducing greater uniSAM 1527versity autonomy through legislative reform. Thomas Estermann, Director for Governance, Funding and Public Policy Development at EUA, then introduced the topic

Following the EUA perspective, international experts shared their experience of systemic and institutional reforms and the benefits of enhanced university autonomy. First, Ola Stave, Secretary General of the Norwegian Association for Higher Education Insitutions, and Elisabeth Freismuth, Director General of Higher Education, from the Austrian Federal Ministry for Science and Research, gave their views of the reform processes that have taken place in Norway and Austria, highlighting where Armenia may learn from them. Next, Manuela Groß, Head of Finance, Accounting and Controlling at Graz University of Technology, Austria, and Alex Pellacani, Chief Financial Officer at the University  of university autonomy and presented previous EUA research in this area.

SAM 1552of Trento, Italy, looked specifically at financial management at institution level, showcasing examples of best practice at institutions that have gained autonomy.

In the second part of the event, Thomas Estermann presented EUA’s analysis of the current state of university autonomy in Armenia and highlighted the existing challenges. Key issues include the low level of public funding, the highly centralised management of academic programmes and burdensome procurement procedures limiting financial autonomy. Following this, the Director of higher and postgraduate education at the Ministry of Education and Science responded by setting out the areas on which the government thinks university reform should focus to bring about greater university autonomy. These included greater academic freedom, reform of the university funding system and removing inconsistencies in the regulatory framework governing higher education.

The closing sessioSAM 1533n consisted of a panel discussion between representatives of the ATHENA project consortium, who discussed the next steps in the national reform process. The key issues that arose from this dialogue were the legal status of public universities, the need for greater academic autonomy and the importance of diversifying income streams with a view to seeking new investment opportunities.

The ATHENA project now moves into its next phase, in which national policy roadmaps for Moldova, Ukraine and Armenia will be drafted, outlining the reform agenda. ATHENA partners from the three countries will also take part in capacity building seminars focusing on institutional management held at EU partner institutions. The first of these will be held at the University of Helsinki on 30 April 2014.

More information about the event can be found in the press release from Yerevan State University.


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  • Yerevan State University
  • Gavar State University
  • State Engineering University of Armenia
  • State Universities Rectors Council of Armenia
  • Ministry of Education and Science of Armenia
  • Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova
  • Cahul State University
  • Free International University of Moldova
  • National Council of Rectors of Moldova
  • Ministry of Education of Moldova
  • Taras Shevchenko National University of Kiev
  • Donetsk National University
  • Odessa National University
  • Lesya Ukrainka Eastern European National University
  • Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine
  • University of Coimbra
  • Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra
  • University of Helsinki
  • Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences
  • University of Amsterdam
  • European University Association