Prime Minister Nikol Pahinyan’s visit to Agrarian University
Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan visited the Armenian National Agrarian University on April 15, 2019, accompanied by the Minister of Education and Science Arayik Harutyunyan. After a short tour in the university, Rector Vardan Urutyan made a presentation of the current situation, reforms underway and future plans of ANAU at the Student Lounge (Dream Lab as ) of ATC.
Radical reforms in ANAU began in since summer of 2018 when the Board of Trustees was restructured and the new Acting Rector was elected (finally elected as the Rector in late December). The University is paving its way towards meeting its vision of becoming a modern regional agrotechnological center of excellence. Speaking on the current situation, Dr. Urutyan characterized it with the huge gap between the existing needs of the country’s economy and the low quality of the education provided by ANAU; the low reputation of the university; the “recessionary” average age of the faculty and researchers; overloaded and obsolete teaching programs; unnecessary courses; outdated teaching methods; and obsolete approaches in student-faculty relationships, with the known negative manifestations. Dr. Urutyan said the structural reforms (optimization of the number of departments and chairs) were paralleled with content-driven and formal changes: (exclusion of lecture dictations, creation of Moodle platform, application of interactive methods, reduction of class hours, intensive computer software trainings for a large number of students and faculty, etc.). An electronic testing system is now being installed, while the E-buh system of electronic management of the learning process, as well as the Mulberry-2 system of electronic document management are now in operation, apparently making the work of the faculty and staff much easier and more effective.The reforms are being implemented in a number of different directions, Dr. Urutyan said. They include: optimization and modernization of educational programs; training of faculty; strengthening the link between education, research and industry; and upgrading the technological infrastructure and laboratory capacities. Curricula and syllabi are being modernized and benchmarked internationally, content of courses and teaching methods are being modernized, and the concept of dual education is being rooted and reconsidered, emphasizing the STEM disciplines.
Restructuring and modernization of the existing laboratories and research centers under the ANAU will allow students to get increasingly involved in hands-on learning and become more skillful and experienced by their graduation. The Wine research center in Voskehat already serves to this goal. Very soon ANAU will build a modern greenhouse through funding from the Government of Japan. Two agricultural collages in Vanadzor and in Aparan will be renovated with the support from EU and Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences, respectively. Prime Minister Pashinyan praised the idea of involving benefactors; however, he advised to present the projects also to the Government. This will allow to address the problems on the state level and go ahead with a clear schedule, especially given the fact that the Government’s resources tend to increase. Among the future plans, Rector Urutyan mentioned the smart barn project, hydroponic feed production, a school of dairy masters, agricultural engineering labs, wine tourism, and precision agriculture. He said the research centers under ANAU are currently in the phase of evaluation for capacity development.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said the development of the Agrarian University is very important for the country, given that agriculture provides the largest employment in the country “Our most important objective is to help farmers to turn their permanent toil into a regular work. The difference between the two is that the second one has a large component of pleasure and satisfaction. Our objective is to reduce the share of physical force in the work process to a possible extent and increase the share of intellectual work. The work should definitely be not toil. I am happy that what has been presented here is compatible to this logic,” Prime Minister Pashinyan said.
The Prime Minister’s visit ended in the wine chemistry lab of EVN Wine Academy and in the tasting room. ANAU is now involved in around 40 international teaching and research programs and projects. From this standpoint, the University not only initiates but also responds to the collaboration offers from local and foreign partners. The reputation of the University grows in the eyes of the society. Having the support from the Government and the Prime Minister, ANAU will now head to its goal of becoming agrotechnological center of excellence with more confidence and in a shorter period.