In Georgia, significant
transformation of the higher education landscape related to the diminished
state involvement in funding, provision and governance of higher education
has been taking place since the collapse of the Soviet regime. The
most spectacular change was in the sheer size of the higher education
sector. If higher education participation level in 1989 was around
19 percent, by 1999 the figure had grown to 29 percent. Furthermore,
on institutional level, a two-tier system leading to BA and MA degrees
was introduced and many institutions started to use a credit system.
of access to higher education was achieved mostly by private higher
education growth. Having no previous history, private institutions
were first established in Georgia in the early 90s and reached its
peak in 1995-1996 when the private sector accommodated 34 percent
of total enrollments. Since then, the private enrolments have been
decreasing so that by 2001-2002 academic year only 21.6 percent of
all students attended private institutions. By contrast, after the
initial fall, the number of public institutions and its enrollments
has been growing since the mid 90s.
change in 2003 marked a major shift in the course of higher education
developments of post-communist Georgia. Before then, processes were
mostly unplanned and spontaneous. Rarely were innovations conceived
as a coherent policy at the Ministry of Education level and much less
it was implemented with the effort from the government authorities.
Driven by the market forces, initiatives often came from separate
institutions or even individual departments and were put into practice
by emulating by others. Absent any efficient mechanism of implementation,
some innovatory attempts never got realized but remained on the surface
as the mere formality. The very first regulatory steps that the Georgian
government took in order to provide the legal framework for and establish
some control over the unplanned developments were given in the mid
90s, finally resulting in the 1997 Education Law. Its implementation
had only a limited success.
The role of the
Ministry of Education and by extension of the state in preparation
and enforcing higher education policy has increased significantly
since the recent political change. The first law on Higher Education,
conceived in 2001 and initially drafted in 2002, was finally passed
in January 2004. The law established new, student-driven funding mechanism
according to which allocations are made through vouchers. It also
instituted accreditation procedure. Another major change concerned
a unified national admissions testing system that was set up in 2004.
state grant on competitive basis can choose among public and private
institutions accredited by the state. Until recently, private institutions
in Georgia were almost exclusively funded though private resources.
Private income, in the form of tuition fees, constitutes the major
source for public institutions as well. After authorization to charge
tuition fees was first granted in 1993, the share of the fee-paying
students in public institutions has been raising sharply. In 2002,
for example, 43 percent of all students financed their studies. Even
though public institutions are permitted to engage in business-like
activities, the share of income generated from those practices remains
insignificant (around 3 percent) to compare to those received from
the state and tuition fees.