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The Minister of Education and Science of Georgia, Mikheil Chkhenkeli, during his speech in the legislative body, informed the members of the parliament about the news, current programs and future plans offered in various directions within the framework of the higher education reform.
In his speech, Mikheil Chkhenkeli focused on the importance of the reform of national exams. As the minister noted, entrants to the unified national exams of 2022 were given the opportunity to choose a relevant subject determined for a specific program in order to continue studying at the desired higher education programs.
According to the minister, on the one hand, when choosing educational programs, the aforementioned change increases the opportunity for entrants to choose the subjects to be passed and helps in better assimilation of the material provided by the educational program, and on the other hand, it increases the interest of students in all subjects determined by the national curriculum.
"In order to develop the quality assurance system of higher education and to harmonize it with the unified European system of higher education, cluster accreditation was developed and implemented, within the framework of which the current educational programs will be evaluated in predefined fields every year. Currently, cluster accreditation of educational programs in the field of humanitarian sciences is underway. Accreditation of educational programs in the field of art is planned for next year. Until 2028, all areas of higher education will gradually undergo cluster accreditation.
In order to move to cluster accreditation, accreditation standards and procedures were changed during 2022, and pilot evaluations of 9 educational programs were conducted. Cluster accreditation standards and procedures are in full compliance with the quality assurance standards and guidelines of the European Higher Education Area (ESG 2015). Also, the attestation of the corps of experts for the accreditation of the humanitarian sphere was carried out, in order to find local and international experts, new competitions were announced, the sectoral characteristics of the humanitarian sphere were developed.'' - said Mikheil Chkhenkeli.
Moreover, as the minister stated, for the first time in 2022, international experts will be involved in the evaluation process of doctoral educational programs and all regulated educational programs together with local accreditation experts. From 2023, it is planned to participate in the process of accreditation of educational programs of all levels and types of international experts. Mikheil Chkhenkeli emphasized that with the changes implemented in 2022, accreditation became mandatory for all types and levels of higher education programs. According to him, this year the National Center for Education Quality Development was granted the authority to carry out international evaluation of higher educational institutions and educational programs operating abroad.
During his speech, Mikheil Chkhenkeli focused on the development of doctoral educational programs. As he said, in order to fulfil the obligations in the field of education within the framework of the Association Agreement between Georgia and the European Union, it was planned to perfect and develop the quality assurance mechanisms of the doctoral educational programs and the scientific-research component. Accordingly, a quality assurance framework document for the evaluation of educational programs at the doctoral level was developed, which is planned to be approved by 2023.
In the direction of improving the quality of higher education, the minister highlighted the issues of holding the annual international forum of ENQA members in Georgia, updating the sectoral characteristics of the educational program of a qualified doctor, and working on a new model of financing higher education.
Mikheil Chkhenkeli: "In 2022, according to the decision of the governing board of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), the National Center for the Development of the Quality of Education was selected and given priority among many other countries to host the annual international forum of ENQA members in 2023, in which 32 European country representatives. Current issues and trends related to higher education policy, higher education quality assurance issues of the European space will be discussed at the annual international forum.
In accordance with the updated standards of the World Federation of Medical Education (WFME), the sectoral profile of the graduate medical education program has been updated, with a special focus on improving the quality of clinical teaching.
The Ministry, with the support of the World Bank, within the framework of the "Innovation, Inclusion and Quality Project - Georgia I2Q" actively continues to work on a new model of financing higher education. In the first stage of this project, IBF, a Belgian company with 40 years of experience in consulting services, presented a general vision of higher education financing reform and outlined the advantages of implementing a results-based financing model. Work is underway in the direction of defining a specific funding model and creating a database system for information management of higher educational institutions. In addition, the higher education component of the project envisages the creation of a competitive innovation fund (CIF) for grant funding of competitive initiatives of higher educational institutions, which will contribute to the improvement of academic educational programs and the learning environment. A total of 40 grant projects will be financed within the framework of CIF. At the end of 2022, the first grant competition will be announced.
The minister informed the MPs about the effective steps taken in the direction of student support. As Mikheil Chkhenkeli noted, in 2022, 95 citizens of Georgia were allocated funding through various programs of the International Education Center for the purpose of studying abroad at master's and doctoral programs, as well as attending qualification raising courses. According to him, the budget of the mentioned program amounted to 3,900,000 GEL. It is important that 54 citizens of Georgia are continuing their studies on bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs abroad, with the full funding of the governments of the centre’s partner organizations.
The minister also spoke about the study financing programs, which the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia offers to students of various levels of higher education.
Mikheil Chkhenkeli: "The Ministry continues to finance students with the state educational and educational master's grant within the framework of the social program. In 2022, one more categories was added to the already 13 categories operating within the framework of the social program - "Children of those who died during operations for the maintenance and restoration of international peace and security or during the implementation of other types of peace activities, or of military personnel of the Ministry of Defence of Georgia who died as a result of health damage received in these missions, as a result of the implementation of peace activities, severely/ Persons with significant disabilities or their children.
The Ministry also continues the program of financing the education of students living in villages near the dividing line, the budget of which is 5,000,000 GEL.
In his speech, Mikheil Chkhenkeli talked about the launch of the digital university, an innovative educational project for convicts in penitentiary institutions in active cooperation with the Ministry of Justice. As he noted, through the digital learning platform implemented in the system, convicted students were given the opportunity to study remotely at the undergraduate and master's level in Georgian universities.
The Minister informed the representatives of the legislative body about the new program - "Innovation and Entrepreneurship Leadership Camp/Bootcamp" implemented in 2022 with the financial support of the Ministry and the European Innovation Academy. According to him, in the bootcamp, where 100 students from Georgia and other countries of the world gathered, the training program was conducted by Entrepreneurship and Technology of the University of California, Berkeley, and the heads of various leading organizations of the Silicon Valley. It should be noted that the European Innovation Academy (EIA) is the world's largest entrepreneurship program for university students. The implementation of the project will accelerate the development of the innovative ecosystem and the formation of the knowledge-based economy in Georgia, which will help to form the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Mikheil Chkhenkeli also spoke about the implementation of the new infrastructure project, which starts this year and includes the construction of a new library at Gori State University. Within the framework of the project, a library corresponding to international standards will create comfortable conditions for students to study. A youth centre will be located in the new building, which will make student life even more diverse by holding events of various educational content with the participation of students.
The minister paid particular attention to the results achieved in terms of internationalization of higher education. As Mikheil Chkhenkeli pointed out, in this direction it is most important to further expand the existing cooperation with American partners. For this purpose, in September of this year, together with the president of San Diego State University, Adela de la Torre, the minister signed a partnership agreement aimed at cooperation with San Diego State University in the direction of higher education and human capital development in Georgia. In particular, San Diego State University and the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia will cooperate in the development of human capital focused on STEM subjects in Georgia.
Mikheil Chkhenkeli emphasized the understanding and implementation of the "third mission" concept in the management culture of the educational institution. According to him, the EU program Erasmus+ project is being implemented with the involvement of the Ministry, as a result of which the third mission of universities will be institutionalized in parallel with teaching and research.
"A new challenge for the system of higher education, research and innovation is to understand and implement the concept of the "third mission" in the management culture of the educational institution. Cooperation with the labour market, industry and civil society and other stakeholders within the framework of the "Third Mission" will encourage the creation of research and innovation clusters and the development of university-industry cooperation. With the participation of the Ministry of Education, the Erasmus+ project of the European Union program is implemented, as a result of which the third mission of universities will be institutionalized in parallel with teaching and research, which will affect the increase of the cultural, social and economic role of universities.
In the direction of internationalization of higher education, the index of success determined the desire of the government to have full access to all benefits of the Erasmus+ program in Georgia and, accordingly, to prepare the country for the association of the Erasmus+ program. For this purpose, in 2018, the so-called preparatory program for associating Georgia was agreed with the European Commission. The Feasibility Study project, the implementation of which began in 2022,'' said Mikheil Chkhenkeli.
The Minister noted that within the framework of the "Study in Georgia" program operating in the Ministry, financial support is provided to three state universities - Tbilisi State University, Georgia Technical University and Ilia State University - for obtaining and further development of higher undergraduate STEM programs in accordance with international accreditation (ABET accreditation and ACS certification standards).
According to Mikheil Chkhenkeli, the Ministry is implementing a number of projects to support universities in order to create joint educational programs with various universities around the world.
As the minister stated in the parliament, the Giorgi Mtatsmindeli Higher School of Church Singing and the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music of Rome are conducting joint specialized training courses, seminars, master classes, conferences and scientific-research projects from this year. Within the framework of cooperation, the mobility of academic staff will be planned within the framework of the short-term exchange program.