Over 90% of Georgian Higher Education Institutions Face Declining Enrolment 

Over 90% of Georgian Higher Education Institutions Face Declining Enrolment 

Over 90% of Georgian Higher Education Institutions Face Declining Enrolment 

The FINANCIAL -- Out of 62 accredited higher education institutions in Georgia only eight attracted more applicants than expected. With an average 2.36 applications per place, Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University is the most in-demand university of the current academic year. There were even two higher education institutions that only received one application each. Business Administration is the most popular profession for around 15% of applicants, with their total number standing at 34,519.

Tbilisi State Medical University is the second most popular university by number of applications. It is followed by Free University of Tbilisi, Shota Rustaveli University of Theater and Cinema, Ilia State University, Georgian Agricultural University, Batumi Shota Rustaveli State University and David Aghmashenebeli National Defence Academy.

The number of free places at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University (TSU) was 4,378 for the 2014-15 academic year. The number of applicants that chose TSU as their first choice was 10,347.

Tbilisi State Medical University offered 821 places over 12 programmes. The number of its applicants was 1,774.

With 8 programmes, Free University offered 430 places this year. The number of applicants reached 846.

Shota Rustaveli Theater and Film Georgia State University announced 184 open calls. The number of potential entrants it had was 318. The University offers 15 programmes. Drama and Film Acting proved to be the most popular programme for entrants. 145 applicants applied for a total of just 30 places. Art Management and Cultural Tourism were the least popular of its programmes. Only 5 candidates applied for the 20 free places available for each programme.

Ilia State University offered 3,996 places in total over 13 programmes. The number of applicants it had was 6,371.

A total of 602 candidates applied for the 430 vacant places at Agricultural University. The number of its programmes was 4. With 245 applicants for 140 offered places, Business Administration has proved to be the most popular programme of the current academic year. The School of Engineering and Technology, offering four undergraduate programmes, received 73 applications for its 80 free places.

237 candidates decided to apply to David Aghmashenebeli National Defence Academy of Georgia. Admission was open to 200 candidates.

The rate was calculated by the number of offered places and number of applicants according to their first choice of place.

Out of the total number of applicants - 34,519, Business Administration places were selected by 14.8%. Meanwhile, 10.6% chose Law and International Law as their future careers, 5.5% chose Economics and another 5.5% - Mathematics.

“The reputation of Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University is the primary reason for its popularity. It was the first university to ever open in the region. But it is not only this history that determined its popularity, but the qualifications of its academic personnel, effective management of its administration and the list of programmes available that are in such high demand, that all combine to form the reason for its success. Currently we offer over 178 accredited academic programmes on each academic level. The largest number is obtained at the Bachelor’s level. The number of attracted applicants determines the competitiveness of the programmes. When an accredited programme remains unassimilated and the demand for it is low, then that reveals to us its faults,” said Tamar Vepkhvadze, Head of Quality Assurance Service at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University (TSU).

“All the programmes at TSU are in high demand. This means that our graduates are successful, the programmes are effective and that is why there is a high employment rate of our graduates. There are various factors which explain the ongoing popularity of TSU,” Vepkhvadze told The FINANCIAL.

Judiciary, with 1,927 applicants for its 540 free places, has been the most popular programme with school leavers at TSU for the current academic year. It is followed by Economics, with 1,358 applicants for its 400 free places, and International Relations - with 889 applicants for 70 free places.

The least popular programme at TSU was Tourism, only 19 candidates applied for it as their first choice, while the number of free places was 100. It was followed by the subject of Physics, with just 77 candidates for 100 places.

According to Vepkhvadze, TSU does not stick to the minimum entrance requirements as stated by the National Examination Center. “Currently 26 points is sufficient for entrance into university. However, at TSU we require a minimum of 36. For some specializations we even have limits of 41 and 46 points. We focus on the quality of our entrants. Nevertheless, as we are observing, the competition still remains quite high,” she said.

“The figures somewhat reflect the University’s popularity. On the other hand, the number of applicants per place is not the only accurate indicator of the popularity of a university. The score of grades due to which the graduates are admitted to universities is more relevant. In this regard, our university has no competitor. The number of applicants per place is not an accurate indicator of the popularity of a university. The figures somewhat reflect the University’s popularity, but the grades measure better,” said Vakhtang Lejava, Chancellor at Free University of Tbilisi.

“We are pleased to see Agricultural University among the leaders in this sphere. The status of this university is improving annually. The previous negative image of the University has been forgotten. The large and complex efforts of its team, that managed the impossible, are what have significantly contributed to this success. Ultimately, candidates choose a university due to its image. The image is primarily connected to the quality of learning and the success of its graduates. The employment rate of Free University graduates is 100%. This fact enhances in line with the graduates of Agrarian University,” Lejava explained.

Georgian Agricultural University has managed to maintain its popularity despite the scandal in 2013 when the Government suspended its accreditation. Many of its students, academic personnel as well as government opponents, have accused the Government of having political motivation in the affair due to the fact that the modernization of the establishment was financed by Kakha Bendukidze, a former economy minister under President Saakashvili. Bendukidze owns the rights for the University. At the time, he claimed that the only problem which the University could have would be its association with himself and that the Government simply suspended its accreditation in order to punish him.

“State universities have a big competitive advantage in being able to offer free tuition. Meanwhile, we still managed to maintain our position of leadership and even improve on our results. More than a half of entrants with the highest scores choose our universities,” said Lejava. 

“A few years ago few would have thoughts that studying at Agricultural University would become prestigious,” he added.  

Vepkhvadze, TSU, said that the continuing trend of the increasing popularity of Business Administration and Jurisdiction courses is mostly dictated by the labour market. “This is quite a challenging issue. The social and economic situation of the country and lack of employment opportunities are what contribute to it. Business and Jurisdiction are professions of practical usage. The labour market is more open and offers greater opportunities to the graduates of these professions,” she said. 

In her words, the labour market is less flexible for the graduates of fundamental fields such as exact and natural sciences, or the humanitarian fields.

“The recent educational policy of the Government’s, which is to support less popular specializations, is very important. There is a list of 17 tuition-free programmes financed by the Government,” Vepkhvadze added.  

“A change in the situation on the labour market is necessary to solve this problem. High wages for the specialists of these professions is also important. Currently, the average salary in the banking sector is higher than that of those other specializations. Consequently, families are encouraging their children to go into the professions that offer the higher wages. Creating jobs and offering higher salaries will increase the level of demand for less popular specializations,” said Vepkhvadze.

Contrary to Vepkhvadze, Lejava from Free University said that once-forgotten specializations are now regaining their popularity and are already in higher demand on the employment market, due to the lack of supply.

“The amount of their wage is determined by the professionalism of each individual. A skilled IT specialist is well paid whether in the agricultural sector or in banking. Moreover, presently the banking sector is not increasing wages at the same rate as previously. The supply is higher on the labour market than the demand. We are seeing a distinct shortage of professionals with modern and qualified skills in the engineering and agricultural sectors. The issue of limited salaries is not affected by profession so much as it is affected by individuals’ competence and knowledge,” said Lejava.

“We are in close and frequent contact with entrepreneurs. We want students to have close ties with entrepreneurs and businessmen in the country. Thus we have a pretty good feel for what’s in demand on the labour market, and respond to it accordingly,” he added.

Business Administration has been one of the most popular programmes at Agricultural University too. However, Lejava explained that it has its peculiarities. It is linked to the agricultural, tourism and hospitality sectors. In his words, it is not a typical business administration. The high demand for this program is therefore that much more gratifying for him.

“We eliminated the faculty of law at Agricultural University several years ago. We considered it to not be in line with the ethos of the University. Meanwhile, we strengthened the direction of engineering. This was quite a risky decision, as you will always have a guaranteed flow of applicants for law. However, we refused to take the easy path, and today we are rewarded by seeing that this decision worked in our favour,” said Lejava.

According to the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia, there are 72 authorized institutions at the moment. Out of them, 28 are universities, 30 are teaching universities and 14 are colleges. A dramatic shortage of applicants has been recorded by teaching universities and colleges. High School Georgia accepted a record low number of applicants. Only a single school leaver applied for a place at the university, out of an expected 97. And only one person applied to Rustavi Academy of Higher Education as well, with the remaining 199 places remaining un-applied for.

Besides at colleges and teaching universities, enrolment has also been quite low at the leading private universities in Georgia: Georgian-American University (GAU), Caucasus University, and International Black Sea University (IBSU). 

GAU received 65 applications, while the expected number was 600. Only 670 students applied to the University of Georgia. The number of open places was 2,500. 193 applicants chose Caucasus University as their first choice of higher education. However, CU was ready to receive 990 freshmen. At the same time International Black Sea University received 369 applications, out of an expected 1,020.