Aygul Mehman

Large numbers of students are finding it hard to make ends meet. And, financial and educational experts say, the constant worries about money may be affecting their ability to learn.

On average, about one in four students qualifies for government help, or about 8.500 of the 34.000 students enrolled each year.

The scholarships are granted according to the grading. Average scholarships range from 50 AZN per month to 90 AZN. Although the average cost of living is estimated (Law of Azerbaijan Republic about Minimum Cost of Living) at 116 AZN in Azerbaijan.

Meltem Talibzadeh, a student at Baku Slavic University (BSU) says it’s impossible to live in Baku on the 75 AZN she receives from the government. At the same time she is working for the newspaper and she gets paid 80 AZN. Almost half of her scholarship she has to spend for her mother’s medicines; 15 AZN is spent for BSU owned dormitory. With the rest 100 AZN she has to pay for her meal, clothes, medical expenses etc.

There are two ways students can enter the university: By scoring well on the exam administered by The State Student Admission Commission or by winning an international science or cultural competitions, (for example, Eurovision Song Contest or Olympic Competitions).

Those who score well can study for free in state universities and receive a government scholarship for living expenses. Those who don’t score well must pay for education either in a state or private university and will not get a scholarship.

Successful students earning top scores at the state exams can apply for presidential scholarships of 150 AZN. 101 students managed to get presidential schoolarship in 2012.  Before presidential elections  president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliev increased (in September, 2013) those scholarships from 150 to 165 AZN. 

Other special scholarships include 20 named for notable such as Heydar Aliev, Hasan Aliev, Aida Imangulieva, and Azad Mirzejanzadeh, in 2012 some students who got one of those scholarships lost their stipends due to low grades.

 “There are some private universities offering allowance to students with high scores,” says Emil, who graduated from the Caucasus  University International Relations Department in 2012. He says the allowance can be as much as 90 percent of tuition, with other fees cut as well.  “They can make you free from yearly fee, in addition, if you are a very talented student, at the same time the university can give you a special scholarship as well.”

Costs vary from school to school and even within schools. At Baku State University, students pay 2,500 AZN to study in their Department of Law. At the private Caucasus University, students pay from 5,000 to 10,000 AZN. But Caucasus University provides free dinner, free textbooks (all staff for university in advance), high speed Internet. In addition, Caucasus University sends its good students to summer schools, while Baku State does not provide these extras.

Every year around 100.000 people apply to study in Azerbaijan. For the 2013-2014 school year the exact number was 102.034. Of those 33,745 applicants were accepted.

Expert Rovshan Agaev – says that every year about one out of four of those accepted getting scholarship assistance from the government; this year that is about 8,500 students. Agaev says that at present, about 40,000 students are receiving government scholarships, but that the government’s formal policy is to give scholarships to all students.

“Because practically the amount of  scholarship doesn’t enough for minimum living basket.”- Agaev

offers, government has to change the policy.

For comparison he says “Let’s look at the Georgian educational system. In (Georgia) studying is not free, everyone have to pay money. But if the students have good grades, and he/she is talented, the government will pay their yearly fee and also scholarship for stimulus.”

The minimum scholarship of 50 AZN buys about five kilograms of meat in Azerbaijan, students say. According to official statistics, the minimum cost of living in the country is 125 AZN while. But independent experts say, this amount is 168 AZN.

Students say that, either they must have support from home, or they must find a job to earn on living. Financial expert Vugar Bairamov says, it is clear that there is a relationship between scholarship and the quality of students’ scholastic work.  “If the scholarship is too low, students are forced to work to get money to survive. And this makes them divide their attention between education and job.” He says, “ In addition, with very low scholarships they can’t buy books or other necessary things for lessons.” Bairamov also stressed that, students who are getting presidential scholarships they may lose it permanently if they once post lower grades.