In the context of the reforms in the field of higher education, active participation of students has a vital importance. An active student is the most valuable and critical actor of the positive change in the higher education system and should participate in any reform and discussion related to higher education. However, students in Armenia remain excluded from any educational reforms agenda as if it does not relate to them. Student representatives and student bodies “elected” by their peers do not serve as genuine and independent institutions and do not represent the interests of the students. In this context, there is a need for an independent platform where students will be free to voice their educational issues and discuss ways of solving them.
The “Armenian Progressive Youth” NGO launches a project entitled “Wind of Change: Empowering Student Activism in Armenia”, in order to encourage student participation in educational reforms, to promote public demand for quality in higher education and to support active student initiatives.
The project targets students from different Higher Educational Institutions in Armenia who want to have an independent, alternative and safe space where they can:
participate in the discussions of the reform processes of the higher education system,
propose solutions and test these solutions via university or inter-university student cooperation projects,
collaborate with policy makers in the field of higher education and representatives of higher education institutions,
propose, design and implement ideas that will contribute to ameliorating the quality of education system at the universities which targeted students represent,
develop a package of recommendations and advocate it among government representatives, policy makers, decision-makers and related stakeholders.
The objectives of the project are:
develop public demand for quality in higher education in Armenia among students,
activate and mobilize students around their higher education related concerns and implement action-driven activities,
develop student leadership skills and promote student activism in Armenia,
involve students in discussions on educational reforms in Armenia as participants in the implementation of reforms, not as consumers.
The selected participants will have the opportunity to:
A year long Student Activism School
Study trips to several universities in Central Europe
Different actions and campaigns on issues concerning students
Student advocacy campaigns and projects
Package of policy recommendations
Develop concrete asks targeting policy makers
Student projects and initiatives
Funding for own projects
An opportunity to meet with local and international experts
Study trip to Central European countries
15 students who successfully completed a one-year program will have an opportunity to travel to Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia for a two-week study trip to get acquainted with local student projects, as well as student organizations and universities.
“Wind of change։ Empowering Student Activism in Armenia” consists of the following main components:
Student Activism School: Student Activism School intends to work with 30 students from Armenia in the course of 6 month. Student Activism School will be a safe space where active students will meet twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays to undergo a series of capacity building workshops provided by experts, freely and critically discuss the existing problems of higher education system in Armenia, acquire knowledge on key concepts related to active citizenship, democratic principles, media literacy, public speaking, leadership, student rights, critical thinking and a range of other topics.
Experts talks: Experts talks will engage students, young professionals, activists, and educators from Armenia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In a series of discussions with the Experts, the participants will get acquainted with researches carried out in the field of higher education, will investigate various topics such as academic freedom in the higher education system, democratic models of university governance, approaches to education, student rights, academic integrity and plagiarism.
As a result of Expert Talks students will acquire deeper understanding of issues of quality in higher education. The Talks will raise the awareness of students on the topics of student activism, student movement building, social justice in the field of higher education, and a range of other topics.
Funding students ideas: Within the framework of the project, it is envisaged to fund several student team initiatives up to 500,000 AMD for each initiative.Young student activists will jointly identify one or several problems of higher education in Armenia and will develop and execute a campaign or initiatives. From 3 up to 5 campaigns will be funded within the project. The aim of this particular action is learning and experiencing campaign tools, practicing student mobilization, movement building and advocacy.
Student-led Advocacy Campaigns: Advocacy Campaign will be organized following the formation of policy asks. A meeting involving policy experts, representatives of Ministries of Education and Higher Education Institutions will be organized where young students can communicate their asks to decision-makers as well as have a dialogue with stakeholders in the field of Higher education. Despite the meeting, a Declaration will be prepared and submitted to the Ministry of Education and the HEI’s advocating for reforms of higher education system and more participation of students in the reforms agenda.
The package of Recommendations: As a result of the project, a package of recommendations will be elaborated based on the issues voiced by the students during the project and proposed solutions. The recommendations will be addressed to the policy makers, international organizations as well as the private sector. The package of Recommendations along with the consultative meetings will raise the awareness of targeted institutions (mainly Higher Education institutions) on the importance and benefits of student activism and how it can propel positive reforms in the system.
Study trip to Central European countries: A 2 week study trip will be organized to Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia for 15 students of the project. The students will have the opportunity to get acquainted with student projects, as well as student organizations and universities. During the trip, students will visit local universities, NGO’s working in the field of Higher Education, activists, university staff and students, student councils and youth organizations in Central Europe. The opportunity to participate in the study trip will be given to those who were actively engaged in the whole project, implemented team initiatives and received a graduation certificate. All expenses of the study trip are covered by the organizers.
The Expected Impact of the project:
Raised awareness among at least 80 % of involved young people and students on the student activism.
At least 80% of the participants will be informed about the issues and challenges of higher education, the level of activism and participation in educational processes will be increased.
At least 200 young students will be enrolled in student-organized projects and advocacy campaigns.
At least 500 students will be involved in different activities of the project.
30 student-participants will apply their knowledge in practice, which will enhance the effectiveness of the learning process.
There will be at least 3 in-university or inter-university student initiatives that will mobilize students on issues related to their education.
Within the frame of the expert talks and study trip, the student-participants will get contacts and cooperation with active students, universities, academic staff and student organizations from the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia.
The project is implemented in cooperation with Matej Bel University (Slovakia), International Projects Association INPRO (Poland), European Youth Center Breclav (Czech Republic) and Youthfully Yours NGO (Slovakia).