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Georgia aims to become regional education leader in South Caucasus, through UCL collaboration

UCL is working with the Georgian Ministry of Education, Science & Youth to develop the international profile of its universities and help Georgia to become a regional leader in higher education.

Photo: Tbilisi State University

1 July 2024

This element of the Georgia I2Q Project, which has been funded by the World Bank, is being delivered by the IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society, facilitated by UCL Consultants (UCLC). 

The project comprises three key strands: the design and accreditation of an international joint degree PhD programme; bachelor’s degree-level modules in English language and entrepreneurial studies; and a series of International Excellence Schools held biannually to boost the skills of early career researchers. 

Facilitating cross-borders education collaboration

The World Bank is an international financial institution which funds development projects of multiple governments. To improve the quality and international competitiveness of the Georgian higher education system, the World Bank is implementing the Innovation, Inclusion and Quality Project, the third component of which is aimed at promoting the internationalisation of higher education in Georgia.

As a world-leading expert in international education, management and governance, Professor Tatiana Fumasoli (UCL IOE) was immediately interested in the project after it was identified by Savvy Business (a Bulgarian international education consultancy). She and her academic team then worked with Savvy Business as UCLC subcontractors to prepare the bid, and were ultimately successful. 

Collaborating closely with colleagues and counterparts in Georgia, the UCL team began working on the design and accreditation of an international joint degree PhD programme in Education and Science Management in March 2023. This will be delivered by Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University in Georgia alongside a carefully selected international partner – the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece. The PhD programme will take its first cohort of students in the 2025/26 academic year. 

Professor Fumasoli comments: “Ultimately, the aim is to prepare and train a highly skilled workforce of academics who will go back to universities and scientific research institutes – and potentially in schools as head teachers – and bring with them real expertise and an international outlook. 

She adds: “A joint PhD programme is probably the highest level of integration you can achieve in any education collaboration, so it’s a complex and highly challenging process to navigate. Decisions must be made at every level around capacity and quality assurance – since every PhD student that goes through the programme and graduates will receive a degree from the two universities.”

Boosting skills of future education leaders

As part of the wider collaboration, the UCL team has also designed bachelor’s degree-level modules in English language and entrepreneurial studies. Specifically, there are six different technical English modules in topics such as maritime law (recognising the importance of the sector to Georgia and its position on the Black Sea) as well as areas like business English and medical English. These modules are designed to be implemented as appropriate by any Georgian university, state or private, and will also start in 2025/26.

The third strand of the overall collaboration is the delivery of a series of International Excellence Schools held biannually in the summer and winter. These are aimed at boosting the skills of early career researchers and are delivered by leading experts from across different faculties of UCL. The first of these took place in January 2024, focussing on how to write a competitive research project proposal. The second, due to take place in Summer 2024, will look at how to set up a university-industry collaboration for the purposes of technology transfer. The third one, planned for winter 2025 is scheduled to be around intellectual property arising from research projects. 

One participant who attended the January 2024 International Excellence School is Dr Tamar Dolidze, from the Batumi State Maritime Academy. She comments: “Overall, the International Excellence School significantly contributed to my personal growth as a researcher and enhanced my ability to craft compelling and well-structured research proposals. Additionally, the school's emphasis on research ethics, academic integrity and effective communication strategies equipped me with the necessary tools to produce high-quality and impactful research proposal.”

A legacy of regional leadership

Having officially started in March 2023, the project is due to run for two years, by which time all strands will be up and running, including the joint PhD programme. 
Throughout the process, Professor Fumasoli and team have worked closely with the Georgian Ministry of Education, Science & Youth, including Tamar Sanikidze, who is the Head of the Project Management Unit in the Ministry and Nino Begiashvili who is Higher Education Component Lead. 

They reflect on the project: “Despite significant achievements in recent years, the Georgian higher education system continues to face many challenges and Georgia’s academic visibility is still limited. Accordingly, the current reform agenda is strongly focused on internationalisation. 

“The project portfolio with UCLC is an important part of the planned efforts. We strongly believe that each pillar of the project will play positive role enhancing quality of education and research, the visibility of the country, and supporting the development of a multicultural society. Moreover, due to the set of competitive advantages Georgia has a well-founded ambition of becoming a regional leader/hub in higher education.”

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