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The education minister faces an uncertain future

April 25, 2013, 11:16 UTC+3

President Vladimir Putin received a letter from the leaders of three factions at the State Duma, asking him to fire Education Minister Dmitry Livanov

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President Vladimir Putin received a letter from the leaders of three Opposition factions at the State Duma lower house of the Russian parliament, asking him to fire Education Minister Dmitry Livanov, and this issue is likely to be raised during Putin's Direct Line with Russian citizens on Thursday, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

One of the most frequent questions for the president on the Direct Line website is whether Putin agrees with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev that "a minister is not the rouble to be liked by all."

Peskov told the Kommersant on Wednesday that the head of state had received a letter from the leaders of three Opposition factions at the State Duma proposing to fire Minister Livanov. Peskov said he knew nothing about the president's reaction. Yet Vladimir Putin might voice his position during the Direct Line question and answer session with Russian citizens on Thursday. "Many questions concerning Livanov are coming," said Dmitry Peskov who was quite confident that the problem would be raised on-camera.

The United Russia Party's list of public claims to Minister Livanov is hardly smaller than the Opposition's, the newspaper notes. For example, there are questions about the "Anti-Plagiat" /anti-plagiarism/ system /used by High Certification Board subordinate to the Ministry of Education and Science/ through which bloggers found hallmarks of plagiarism in lawmakers' theses. On Wednesday, State Duma deputy Vladimir Burmatov told the newspaper that prosecutors had begun a check of the Anti-Plagiat private company.

Anti-Plagiat allegedly obtained monopolistic access to the thesis archives at the Russian State Library and began to earn money on it, with the Ministry of Education and Science sending letter to colleges which urge them to join the Anti-Plagiat system. Deputy Education Minister Igor Fedyukin stated that some politicians "protect the interests of sham scientists whom the ministry is fighting," and rejected the accusations.

The bulk of complains concern the optimization of colleges. "The method to cut the number of colleges was developed without taking into account third parties' opinions; the principles of optimization remain unclear," United Russia said.

The monitoring of the effectiveness of colleges, conducted by the Ministry of Education and Science in 2012, found 136 ineffective educational institutions and 450 ineffective branches, the Kommersant reminds. Thirty colleges and 262 branches were slated for mergers with more efficient colleges. Director of the Russian branch of Transparency International Yelena Panfilov said corruption had flourished at the colleges marked for restructuring, with bribes taken for admission and higher education certificates.

"There are no chance persons in the government; it is the premier's team," a government source told the newspaper, "Dmitry Livanov makes many difficult re-organization decisions."

In his recent government performance report at the State Duma, Dmitry Medvedev gave a very clear and understandable opinion of the minister's activity; at the same time, he pointed out that the ministry should build relations with the civil society and State Duma members," the Novye Izvestia quoted Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets as saying.

Experts believe the minister's resignation is imminent with a large amount of complaints about his work on the part of the society, the professional community and government bodies, the newspaper underlines.

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