In the frameworks of the October 13, 2014 cooperation declaration signed in Stepanakert between the Artsakh State University (ArSU) and Belgium's Leuven Catholic University (LCU), on June 7-10, the delegation of the ArSU, with Rector Manush Minasian at the head, paid a working visit to Belgium.
The June 16 press conference at the ArSU was dedicated to this issue. According to ArSU Rector Manush Minasian, the inter-university cooperation is considered as an important guarantee for the development of the University. In particular, the cooperation of all the leading universities of Armenia with the universities of Russia, the Baltic countries, and Transnistria is an important factor in keeping pace with the world educational processes and, why not, a small contribution to the issue of recognition of the Artsakh Republic. Since the last year, much has been done in this direction and specific events have been implemented. A special place is occupied in this series by the memorandum signed with the Leuven Catholic University, by which the sides expressed their readiness to cooperate in the educational and research spheres. It includes exchange of information on the successful programs implemented in the educational sphere, organizational and anlytical consulting services provided in the educational and research spheres, visits of lecturers and students to the educational and scientific events, cooperation between departments, research centers and students' structures, as well as exchange of students and lecturers. By the way, the initiative and development of this cooperation were realized thanks to the efforts of the NKR Foreign Ministry and the ARFD Armenian National Committee of Europe. A great role was played also by Professor and former Rector of the Catholic University of Leuven Coulie Bernard, who holds the title of Honorary Professor of the Artsakh State University. He is an expert on Armenian studies and has worked for twenty years with the RA education system, implementing various programs, which involved the Artsakh State University in 2014.
The Catholic University of Leuven is quite old, was founded in 1425, has 14 faculties and about 35.000 students; the Armenian studies department is 200 years old. The main feature is that one-third of the city population are students and professors. The University plays a great role in the life of the city.
According to Manush Minasian, the visit to Belgium allowed to discuss the cooperation further programs more thouroughly and substantively.
On the first day of the visit, a meeting was held with Rector Vincent Blondel. During the discussions, the main directions of cooperation for the coming years were identified. Two directions were specified – exchange of professors and students, joint research projects. The next day, meetings were held in different formats - first, at the International Cooperation Office, where the mechanisms of works were specified. The Leuven counterparts presented mainly their experience in the exchange of students and mobility, which is very rich. Erasmus is the name of the program, according to which the Catholic University of Leuven, as a representative of the European education sector, provides the mobility of 30% of the students.
They also discussed the conditions, under which the exchange will be carried out. As a result, the professions, for which the first steps have to be carried out, were specified. They are economics and law professions. Manush Minasian noted that a number of factors were taken into account. First, the European experience will be much more useful in these areas of Artsakh's economy; in addition, the students' knowledge in this sphere and their skills in foreign languages will allow them to spend their studies in foreign Universities. Financial problems, of course, will be that they will solve educational foundations, as well as parents and university facilities.
The LCU leadership attached great importance to the development of horizontal ties: student-student, student-lecturer, consequently, on research topics. Coordinator from the Karabakh side Vitya Yaramishyan noted that they were trying to find such topics and trends that may be of interest for the European top University professors and students. They focused on political topics, considering that Artsakh is a conflict zone, there are prominent experts on conflict resolution at the University, and the Karabakh conflict settlement – its current state, process and prospects - will be interesting for them.
According to the ArSU delegation member, another direction, for which Artsakh can be interesting for the European University, is the research in the Armenian studies and archeology – Artsakh, which is a hidden treasure, its historical values and monuments and archaeological monuments can be an interesting area of research for the Leuven University professors and students. The other direction, in his opinion, could be the post-war situation in Artsakh, which we call a slow war. According to him, there is probably no similar situation in the world – a non-finished-war situation after a war, which can also provide an interesting field of research for the Belgian partners. Perhaps, the most interesting direction can be the Artsakh divine nature, with its biodiversity. Our students and professors should be simply active in their initiatives and come up with interesting topics.
Naturally, the neighboring country couldn't stay indifferent towards the cooperation. The Azerbaijani delegation expressed its dissatisfaction with the plans for cooperation between the Artsakh State University and the leading European University, expecting Bernard Coulie's influence for terminating the cooperation. The professor replied that he was the initiator of this cooperation, and the Azerbaijani delegation had nothing to do but to leave.
During the press conference, various questions related to the developments at the ArSU were asked.