PhD dissertation

Yesterday I attended a PhD dissertation at the academy of science. Lilit Zakaryan was part of the committee. As usual in the room there is a long desk, two men sitting behind it. The first 2 rows of the public was full of men, all in costume, all of them had a microphone. No one had a computer in this lecture room! There was an introductory talk in Armenian (all the dissertation was in Armenian), then the student presented his thesis orally (no slides, or projector, no other media, is it the same in Sweden in the humanistic faculties?)

PhD dissertation
PhD dissertation

The topic of the thesis was gender perception of life under communism in ex-soviet union (or something similar). After the student’s presentation, the people in the committee gave their feedback. Some of the opinion were formal, in the sense that the committee member went to the stage to read his/her feedback, some other opinion are given from the public. The student responded to the comments. In total there are 13 people in the committee, and Lilit is the only woman. It seems that the feedbacks are positive, there has been some comments about the methodology; since the history in this thesis is recent, the method seem to be not suitable (according to what Lilit says).

When everyone in the committee had finished to comment on the thesis, we went out from the lecture room, while the committee remained and voted the thesis.  We went back after 10 minutes and one person communicated the response: 13 out of 13 members in the committee were positive to the thesis, the student was approved. However, the thesis was not yet published, so the student has to modify the thesis according to the comments he received and then it can be published.

After that I went home. The city is preparing for Christmas!

Christmas decoration
Christmas decoration


Quality conference at the american university of Armenia

On the 4th and 5th, I attended the quality conference  at the american university of Armenia. The conference was in armenian and english, but we got translators. The conference was organised by the Anqa organisation (
After the welcome speech made by several people (prime minister, minister of education, president of Anqa, rector of university), there was a panel discussion on the following topic: the impact of quality assurance in the development of higher education system: expectations and outcomes.  
Some of the topics of the conference are similar to what we discuss in Malmö (life long learning, education connected to research, education that produces professionals needed by the society, and other topics). One of the differences is that in Armenia, they (Anqa) do not only evaluate the education programmes but the whole university (the teachers, the organisation, the facilities, the research and other things). The universities get some kind of certification after they have performed the accreditation process.

Quality conference in Yerevan
Quality conference in Yerevan

Another main difference with Sweden is that Armenia is a post-soviet country where there are few companies, therefore it is difficult to have people from companies  or society interacting with the universities. Also the feedback of the students to the education system is low because (according to Lilit who works with quality) students are afraid to give their own opinion. The general impression is that both the people working on Anqa and the university people work a lot with quality but the universities are a bit detached from the  needs of the society and the students.  
During the conference I met several people, one teacher working on economy who would like to come to Malmö for staff exchange. Another person, the chancellor of the “YEREVAN UNIVERSITY AFTER MOVSES KHORENATSY” needs an external quality expert for peer reviewing their self evaluation. I may do it, they will check the formal requirements with the minister of education.

I have also met a finish guy, Karl Holm, who is a Residence Twinning Advisor at Finnish Education Evaluation Centre, he  will work with Anqa for 2 years. I got to talk swedish with him! 🙂

After the conference me and Lilit went to a cafe and it was very very interesting to hear from her about Armenia and Yerevan, and the conditions they have lived the past 20 years.

Anqa ceremony

Today there was a ceremony at university. The organisation called Anqa for quality assurance of universities (I believe it is similar to our UKÄ), has distributed some certificate of attendance to a training course.  For this ceremony there has been a lot of preparation done by the employees at northern university, for instance the poster in the picture has been prepared in few days.
Poster for the Anqa cerimony
Poster for the Anqa ceremony
It describes the latest events and collaboration of the university, for instance Nune’s staff exchange to Malmö, 2 polish exchange students who have been in Yerevan, some other trip of the staff to Palermo, to Austria and others.
There has been also a short film made of interviews to different people of the university, including me!
The ceremony started at 10:00. We sat in an auditorium, quite many people were participating. The rector, vice rector and the head of this organisation Anqa welcomed everyone.
Welcome speech
After that the expert and the public had a discussion (kind of panel, people saying their opinion or asking questions and the the expert were answering). After that there was the distribution of the certificates. One of the responsible of the quality assurance at Northern university Lilit Zakaryan got the certificate (very nice and colourful!)
The ceremony ended at 13:00 with a buffe’ of fruit and sweets.

Flexible meetings

On the 26th I went to the university knowing that I had 2 meetings scheduled, one at 11:00 with the computer engineering department and the other after lunch with the quality assurance department. However, when I arrived in the morning  at work I got to know that the first meeting was canceled. Instead, I went to the library, and the librarian Julia, offered me turkish coffee, fruit and chocolate. She also gave me a present, a book with the title: “Realities as if unknown to turks”, a collection of letters written by armenians about the genocide, written in four languages: Russian, Armenian, Turkish and English.
Julia and Martin
Julia and Martin
The library was quite small and the books were old. There was no computer in the library, the borrowing of the books is done manually. Actually, there was none in the library, the librarian said that armenian students do not like to read books! (similar to our students? 😉
The second meeting was also canceled today, it is shifted to next week. It seems that they are quite flexible with the meetings!
The meeting with the computer engineering department was rescheduled on the 27th. I had no idea of what was the agenda and who would come to the meeting (I would not accept this in Sweden!). The evening before I browsed a bit the site of our faculty in order to be prepared for the meeting. When I arrived at university, I went directly to the meeting room and it was full of people, mostly students but also faculty staff. They asked me to talk about the TS faculty, so I improvised a presentation of TS (thanks to Filippa T since she sent me a ppt presentation of TS). One of the faculty member translated my talk.  After that they asked me specific questions, like what programming languages do we teach, detailed of the web design course, and of the database course. They also asked me about the research and example of projects. That was a difficult question, I do not have a good overview of the research done at our computer science department and know nothing about the projects at IMP. I searched and showed some slides from the latest presentation of the IOTAP research center.

Presentation of TS
Presentation of TS

In the evening, I got a video of the presentation (a slideshow with music), which is also available on Youtube:

First day at work!

On monday I had my first presentation about Malmö University at 13:00, but I couldn’t sleep the night before!! Nervous or jet lag or dry air? Finally I fell asleep around 4am (1am swedish time).
It was my first day at work, the plan was that Nune (my contact person) present Northern university, she would also translate my presentation.
I arrived at uni few minutes before 13, we went directly to the rector office. Entering his office made me the feeling of going back in time, the room had one big oval table with many chairs around it, the rector desk did not have a computer on it!  There was a secretary just before the entrance of the office. After greeting each other  and leaving my jacket and bag, we went up to the fifth floor.
I entered the room of the presentation, this look like any other meeting rooms, a big round table, a projector screen and a projector on the table. The room was full with people and they were all watching at me! I was so excited that I did not take any picture during the whole day! Hopefully I will do that the coming days! On the table there were plates with sweets, juice water and some other stuff. Nune presented to me all the people around the table, she had also invited  some students from the language department. I presented the general Malmö university english presentation plus some slides of TS faculty and english programmes at our faculty. When I show the slide “questions?” there were really many questions! I have never got so many question on a presentation (except when I defended my PhD thesis). That was actually fun, the audience have been listening to me with interest and were curious about the Swedish system! I got the following questions (I probably have forgotten some questions):
  • Salary of teachers (embarrassing question!)
  • Students paying a fee, (I explained the system with credits and that the students have to pass a certain amount of credits in order to get their salary)
  • Students trying to stay longer at university because they get a salary
  • Percentages of students finding a job
  • How many percent of students are good
  • Business incubator (from a student, I had to google to know what it is!)
  • Students dropping out, and why
  • Why do we have so many students (do we?)
  • Why are we successful (are we?)
  • Main income /product in Sweden
  • How is research funded
  • How many universities are public, and private
  • How would the Swedish government react if Armenia would start Swedish courses?
  • What is the goal of my trip
  • Why did I choose Armenia
  • What am I going to do here
  • Why did I move to Sweden
We had some discussion about gender, they have the same problem in IT with gender inequality.
During my presentation I heard some bells ringing, at 14:00 and at 14:15. I guess it was the break between lectures, it reminded when I was in primary school. Actually the whole university reminded me of an elementary school I attended in Italy, simple,  the rooms are with few furnitures, just small desks and chairs. the entrance door is small.
A classroom of Northern University
A classroom of Northern University
After my presentation, many left, so it was decided to skip Nune’s presentation for the day.
We went to the rector office again, where I was offered armenian wine and cognac. We sat around the table, me, Nune, the rector and vice rector and another man (do not remember his role). The secretary prepared the glasses with the water, and cognac (or wine).  We toasted to “the small countries”, the rector wanted to find a similarity between Armenia and Sweden. We talked about history of Armenia and todays world history and economy (very challenging for me!) and the hope that Armenia will become again a successuffull country like it has been before the genocide in 1915.  The rector excused himself for not knowing English, he said that when he was young he thought that armenian would become a big language.
They asked me if Sweden has diaspora (i.e. if many swedes are living outside Sweden). I answered that there are swedes living in other countries but it is not a big phenomena. Just for information, Armenia has 3 million inhabitants, but there are 10 millions armenian living in other countries (since the genocide in 1915).
After chatting a bit,  I got a book from the rector about quality assurance at the Northern university, then we sayd good bye.