BAKU – Some barriers to student involvement in Azerbaijan still exist, possibly due to the geopolitical situation and the political history of the country. This is one of the conclusions from the visit of an ESU delegation to ATGTI, Candidate Member of ESU, which took place between 4 and 11 March. ATGTI is the acronym for the Azerbaijan Student Youth Organizations' Union (also known as ASYOU). Azerbaijan only recently joined the Bologna Process.
The five-headed ESU delegation was led by Karl Agius from ESU and included Mateusz Wysocki (NUS, United Kingdom), Anna Mäkipää (SYL, Finland), Djordje Maric (SUS, Serbia) and Hanna-Stella Haaristo (EUL, Estonia). During the study week the team held more than 20 meetings with different stakeholders including representatives from the Ministry for Education and the Ministry for Youth and Sport, rectors, vice-rectors and deans from various universities (public and private), representatives from ESU’s full member from Azerbaijan (ASU) a number of local unions of ATGTI and a number of NGOs and youth organizations such as AEGEE and AIESEC.
Through these meetings, the team could clearly note that youth and students in Azerbaijan are very active in organizing several events related to sports, cultural heritage, training sessions and educational/ academic oriented events. Students and youth also obtain support from various governmental and private institutions across the country.
On the other hand, some barriers to student involvement still exist, possibly due to the geopolitical situation and the political history of the country, and thus the Study Visit Team feels that this may hinder student participation in higher education.
Meanwhile when it comes to Higher Education it is interesting to point out that the Bologna Process has been only recently introduced in Azerbaijan. ATGTI is engaging itself to improve the implementation of this declaration and has also prepared a publication which has been distributed to all students. This has been done in collaboration with an academic who strongly believes in student involvement.
Student involvement in Azerbaijan is relatively young and thus there is relatively lack of experience when compared to other countries where student activism has a long history. It is for this reason that the study visit team noted that Student Unions in Azerbaijan require more support in training especially in the field of HE to further get engaged in policy making.
Even though there is room for improvement ATGTI was found to be a democratic, open, representative and independent union. A detailed report outlining the findings is now being compiled by the ESU delegation and will be made available to the Board of ESU. A decision on whether ATGTI should be accepted as full member or not will now be taken during the next ESU Board Meeting, to be held in Bucharest, Romania this April.