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 3729.6 million (2018). As a country in transition, Georgia is implementing a number of reforms, including reforms of the higher education system.
Georgia joined the 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 180 ECTS, graduate programmes (Master) consist of a minimum of 60 ECTS and doctoral programmes with a duration of minimum three years and a teaching component consisting of 60 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.
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. There are 62 stately recognized (authorized) HEIs in Georgia (19 public and 43 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 applied to the World Federation of Medical Education (WFME) and has already received the recognition status from WFME the same year. NCEQE is the first quality enhancement agency in Europe which received the status from WFME.
The National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement continues the cooperation with the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM). The aim of the Center is to become the official partner of EFQM in Georgia. The NCEQE has prepared the partnership document in accordance with the EFQM requirements and sent it together with the application to the EFQM.
In 2018 the Center carried out the self-assessment according to the EFQM Business Excellence Matrix, which helped to figure out organization’s strengths and opportunities for improvement. Currently, the NCEQE continues to implement the action plan, created as a result of the self-assessment, in order to achieve the more Excellence and to become “Recognized for Excellence”.
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 and the first round of newly approved external QA standards and procedures was implemented in 2018. 25 HEIs in Georgia have undergone QA process according to new authorization and accreditation standards, based on international experience and approach. International peers have been involved in the assessment process for the first time.
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 (place #6 among 141 partner countries in 2018) and other initiatives and projects are being implemented in this regard in close cooperation with different donor organizations.
The 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.
With the new initiative of the government of Georgia, state budget allocations for the education sector will be 1.6 BLN GEL in 2019, 2 BLN GEL in 2020, 2.5 BLN GEL in 2021 and will hit 6% of GDP in 2022. The wide-scale investments will be allocated not only in the infrastructure, but increased remuneration and higher funding for scientific research. The vision and plan of the government is to transform Georgia into a regional economic hub. According to the new concept, accessibility of education will be ensured throughout the country.
Currently Georgian HERE team consists of ten members, representing public and private HEIs from Georgia, as well as other NGO of public organizations. 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 the 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, The Problem of Plagiarism and its Perception in Georgia and The Role of Universities in Regional Development.
In 2018 two important surveys have been launched:
1. “Implementation of the Revised Higher Education QA system for Institutional Evaluation: Impact Assessment” which focuses on the outcomes and impact of the first cycle of QA process. The survey envisages statistical overview of the outcomes and content analysis of self-evaluation reports of the HEIs and evaluation reports, provided by the experts. The desk study component will be followed by survey and in-depth interviews of HEI teams, experts (local and international) and NCEQE. The survey results and developed recommendations will be presented on the national conference and discussed with all stakeholders.
2.”Erasmus+ staff mobility impact at personal (professional development) and institutional levels (HEI strategic development)” studies the influence of ICM programme on staff and institution development. The survey covers all HEIs involved in ICM programme in order to make some general conclusions. At the second stage target universities for in-depth interviews/case studies will be selected based on the following criteria: a) number of partnerships (critical cases with large number of partnerships), b) location (region, capital) and c) type of the institution (state, private).
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 and in 2018 have participated in the first round of external QA, implemented in accordance with international standards, 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
TAM Seminar on Authorization / Accreditation Report Writing - 21-22 June 2018, Tbilisi, Georgia
TAM Seminar on Institutional QA Culture - 27-28 November 2018, Tbilisi, Georgia
TAM Seminar on Strategic Development & Financial Planning – 11-12 February 2019, 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