Georgia, a country in Caucasus region, located at the crossroads of East and West, covers a territory of 69,700 square kilometers, and has a population of about 3.718 million (2017). As country in transition, Georgia is implementing number of reforms, including reforms of the higher education system.
Georgia joined Bologna Process in 2005 and largely shaped its higher education system according to the Bologna Process guidelines. Three cycles of education were organized accordingly: undergraduate programmes (Bachelor) have a minimum of 240 ECTS, graduate programmes (Master) consist of 120 ECTS and the doctoral programmes consist of 180 ECTS. Degree programmes in medicine, teacher education and veterinary education are exceptions requiring 360 ECTS in medicine and 300 ECTS in dental medicine, teacher education and veterinary. These are defined as long cycle/integrated programmes, which are equivalent to a Master level education.
The language of instruction is predominantly Georgian. Only those programmes that aim to attract international students are delivered entirely in English. Some joint programmes with European universities are offered in German or English languages.
NQF - National Qualifications Framework (NQF) was approved in December 2010. The document includes all the qualifications and different levels of general, vocational and higher education competences that exist in Georgia. The NQF defines what type of knowledge, skills and values an individual should have in order to receive a certifying document of completion at a corresponding level – School Certificate (Attestat), Vocational Diploma, Diploma. See also the structure depicted below.
The Parliament of Georgia defines and approves state priorities and main directions of higher education. It also develops the legal framework to enable policy implementation. Annually, the Government of Georgia (GoG) determines the amount of the state grant to be dispersed to the higher education sector. The Government develops state programmes targeting social, economic or research priorities of the country. The GoG is also able to establish new HEIs. The Prime Minister appoints the directors of the National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement (NCEQE) and National Assessment and Examinations Center (NAEC).
The Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia (MES) develops higher education policy and oversees its implementation. It develops a legislative framework and proposes it to the Parliament for approval and develops necessary bylaws enabling the policy implementation process. The MES also administers the state grant scheme. It assumes a representative role in the international and transnational educational platforms, such as the Bologna Process.
The National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement (NCEQE) develops external quality assurance (QA) mechanisms and administers authorization and accreditation processes. The Centre collects basic data on HEIs including students, academic personnel, degree programmes and the like. It also houses the NARIC functions and is in charge of developing NQF.
The National Assessment and Examinations Center (NAEC) develops and administers system level examinations, such as Unified National Examinations (UNE) and high school graduation tests.
Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) represent the implementation body that is governed by the Law on Higher Education. Public HEIs are accountable to and financially dependent on the MES. While private HEIs are not accountable to the MES directly, they are part of the external QA scheme and benefit from the state grant scheme by demonstrating compliance to the state QA processes.
There are three types of HEIs in Georgia:
University – a higher education institution implementing the educational programs of all three cycles of higher education and scientific research;
Teaching University – a higher education institution implementing higher education programme/programmes (except for Doctoral programmes). A Teaching University necessarily implements the second cycle – Master’s educational programme/programmes;
College – a higher education institution, implementing only the first cycle academic higher education programmes.
HEIs can be publicly or privately founded and funded, but quality criteria are same for all institutions despite of their legal status. As to April 2018 there are 71 stately recognized (authorized) HEIs in Georgia (20 public and 51 private institutions), 8 of them are Orthodox Divinity Higher Educational Institutions.
Over the past two decades Georgia has made significant changes in its higher education system, but in the last years main focus was made on quality assurance reform and its internationalization aspects. Significant progress has been reached in this regard.
The National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement, which is responsible for improving the quality of education in the country, aims at closer cooperation with international institutions working in the education area and involvement in the international academic network. In 2014 NCEQE gained an affiliate status of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA). In 2018 NCEQE has launched the process for ENQA full membership that has been declared as a strategic goal of the center and the implementation process is envisaged in the approved action plan for 2018-2019.
In 2018 NCEQE is applying to the WORLD Federation of Medical Education (WFME) for recognition as a recognized accrediting agency for Medical Schools in Georgia.
NCEQE is actively involved in implementation of existing recommendations of the Association Agreement between the EU and Government of Georgia. In the framework of the Association Agreement and in order to promote the Bologna Process the main focus was made on review of standards and procedures of quality assurance on the basis of the revised Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG). New external QA standards (authorization of institutions and accreditation of educational programmes) for HEIs have been elaborated with active participation of international partners and local stakeholders. The pool of international peers was created in order to involve international accreditation peers into the external QA process, which has been launched in 2018.
The European Union and Georgia began negotiations of an Association Agreement and a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) in 2010 and it was officially initialed in 2013. The Visa Liberalization for Georgian citizens to the Schengen Area, a historic decision on the road to Georgia’s homecoming and its final integration in the European family, was launched in 2017. The visa-free regime became one of the fundamental elements of political association and economic integration of Georgia with the European Union foreseen in the Association Agreement, namely the substantial enhancement of mobility and people-to-people contacts.
The Association Agreement sets out certain aims for the education system, notably its reform and modernization, and convergence in the field of higher education in the Bologna process, which includes the enhancement of the quality and relevance of higher education. In the framework of the Association Agreement Georgian Government cooperates with EU with the aim of - ,,overall modernization and reform of Georgia's education, joint work and exchanges with a view to promoting Georgia's further integration into the European Higher Education Area, in the context of its membership of the Bologna process’’. Concrete programmes such as Erasmus+ benefiting large numbers of Georgian students and other initiatives and projects are being implemented in this regard in close cooperation with different donor organizations.
Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia has launched a programme – Study in Georgia – in order to promote internationalization, mobility and attractiveness of Georgian higher education for international audience and especially students. The programme reflects the main aspects of internationalization strategy of the government in terms of higher education. A special website www.studyingeorgia.ge has been created, containing all necessary and useful information about the system of higher education, education institutions and their programmes, application procedures and relevant practical information about Georgia, living conditions, tourism attractions and etc.
Currently Georgian HERE team consists of ten members, representing public and private HEIs from the capital and regions, as well as National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement. HEREs participate in thematic seminars and study visits, as well as international conferences, at the same time HERE team performs counselling and advisory activities at national level. One of the main tasks of HERE team is to support national policy reforms by development and translation of guidelines and policy documents, elaborating recommendations and conducting research/surveys.
Several important surveys have been conducted by HERE team or with their active involvement in recent years: “The Best and the Worst Practices of Quality Enhancement – Case of Georgia”; ,,Georgian Universities Support to their Student’s Employability”; “Doctoral Programmes in Georgia: Developments and Challenges” and etc.
On the request of the Ministry of Education and Science research project proposal has been prepared on “The Problem of Plagiarism and its Perception in Georgia” by NEO and HEREs. The project highlights official policy, existing practice, and the attitudes regarding plagiarism in Georgian HEIs as expressed in the official documents, in the interviews and focus groups. Set of recommendations for universities and local authorities (Ministry of Education and Science, accreditation agency) has been developed in order to foster academic integrity and therefore to enhance quality of education and research. Project findings were intensely discussed during regional seminars and final conference in Tbilisi (September 2016), as well as media interviews and have served as a basis for developing a new national CBHE project proposal on prevention and fighting plagiarism at Georgian HEIs (project selected for funding in 2017 and involves 12 Georgian HEIs). Report (in Georgian and English languages) has been published (online and hard-copy); additionally, a DFG publication “Safeguarding good scientific practice” has been translated into Georgian (published online and hard-copy) as part of the project.
The recent survey report “The Role of Universities in Regional Development”, provided by HERE and NEO teams (four experts involved) focuses on the role of universities as contributors to the development (economic, social and cultural) of separate regions and the country in general. The case of two regional universities was studied, based on in-depth interviews with key stakeholders as local authorities, central government, donor organizations and universities itself. The recommendations on the involvement of universities in regional development are made from different perspectives for all key stakeholders. The report served as a basis for a cluster monitoring visit (April 2018) addressing specific characteristics in implementing CBHE projects at regional universities.
All publications (translations, guidelines, reports) developed by the Georgian HERE team are available here: http://erasmusplus.org.ge/en/publications.
The role of HEREs in the ongoing reforms of higher education system is obvious. HERE members are actively involved in all significant changes and developments in QA system, scientific challenges and reforms of the education system of the country. HERE involvement in QA reform processes at national level was manifested not only in a membership of accreditation board or involvement in the pool of experts, but also resulted in significant changes of new standards of authorization (presented in December 2016 officially) and accreditation. National accreditation agency (NCEQE) always includes HEREs in working groups and considers their recommendations – main design of new standards, as well as most newly introduced and approved paragraphs have been based on recommendations developed by HEREs, including: Improvement of recognition of international mobility; Enhancing internationalization of QA; Introduction of anti-plagiarism procedures (prevention, detection and reaction on plagiarism) in institutional regulatory documents.
In 2017 several HEREs were engaged in piloting authorization and accreditation processes as local experts working side by side with international peers.
HERE contribution to HE reforms is not limited to QA system developments. HEREs are also working in other fields such as:
TAM seminar on Joint programme development: opportunities and practical tips – 3-4 September 2015, Tbilisi, Georgia
TAM seminar on Internationalization of Doctoral programmes as prerequisite for quality enhancement – 9-10 November 2015, Tbilisi, Georgia
HERE Annual Conference – "Innovating teaching and learning: The next phase of the Bologna Process" -3-4 December 2015, Tbilisi, Georgia
TAM seminar on External QA system in the age of internationalization – 2 March 2016, Tbilisi, Georgia
TAM seminar on Prevention of and fight against plagiarism at universities – German case – 3-4 March 2016, Tbilisi, Georgia
TAM Seminar on Erasmus+ Credit Mobility – how can things be done better – 12 April 2016, Tbilisi, Georgia
TAM Seminar on University ranking systems – links with QA – 7-8 November 2016, Tbilisi, Georgia
TAM Seminar on Bologna Process - 10-11 April 2017, Sokhumi, Georgia
TAM Seminar on Higher Education Funding Models – 22-23 June 2017, Tbilisi, Georgia
Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia – www.mes.gov.ge
National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement – www.eqe.ge
National Assessment and Examination Center - www.naec.ge
List of HEIs in Georgia - http://eqe.ge/eng/static/89/register/heis
National Erasmus+ Office Georgia – www.erasmusplus.org.ge
Higher Education Reform Experts in Georgia - http://erasmusplus.org.ge/en/experts