The PIE News: Tell me about Study in Georgia, how is the sector doing?
Mariam Naneishvili: Study in Georgia was launched two years ago. Today we have about 10,000 international students in Georgia and we are working a lot on trying to make Georgia a new study destination. We have 70 universities and about 33 of them have launched international programs. The most popular is the medical faculty, then business. Engineering is also very popular.
The PIE: Where are students coming from?
MN: We have a great amount of students from India. Our medical faculties are very popular in India, and also [with students] from Iraq, Israel, Ukraine. We have students from Turkey and from Azerbaijan.
For Europeans, such as German, French or Italian students, Georgia is not a very cosy study destination today, but we have some students from Eastern Europe and some students from Germany. Mainly they come to Tbilisi State University.
But we are working a lot to make the quality of study programs and academics higher. [We want] the employees [to be] much more qualified, and we invite national lecturers.
Georgia also is popular because the living costs are not very high for students. It’s affordable to rent an apartment in Georgia, and people like living there. Also Georgia has a great culture, it is very interesting and has become a very popular tourist destination.
“Making a university with real European standards in Georgia is a huge step in our development”
The PIE: How important are scholarships?
MN: Scholarships are important, we have scholarships for the students we send abroad to study, the government has state scholarships for them.
For internal scholarships, such as those for people who come to study in Georgia, it’s mostly dependent on [whether] universities have scholarships to give them.
The PIE: Does the country have an internationalisation strategy, and what are its main goals?
MN: Yes, the country has an international strategy and we have an agreement with Europe. We want to make our study destination very popular. The main goal for the strategy is to have a high quality education system which we can offer to international students, and we want our alumni to [go on to work in] relevant positions in well developed countries.
The PIE: Do you expect students to stay in Georgia after their studies or to go back?
MN: Mainly I think they go back to their countries. There are not many employment opportunities but the government is working a lot to improve the situation.
The PIE: And in terms of language of instruction, are all the courses in English? Do international students have to learn Georgian?
MN: No, we have international programs and we have programs taught in English, in German, in French but mainly most of the programs are in English. In Georgia everyone speaks English so we have a lot of schools that can offer lectures in English. It’s not a problem.
The PIE: How easy is it for international students to integrate into the wider society?
MN: I think it is quite easy, because Georgia is very famous for our friendly, hospitable character, so I think that living in Georgia and communicating with Georgian people can’t be unpleasant for anybody.
The PIE: You talked about a plan to make Georgia a great destination, can you tell us more?
MN: The government of Georgia today is working on a revolutionary project that is called Kutaisi University Complex.
The founder of this university is the former prime minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili. It will be a huge university city and we will reach 60,000 students. It is a huge project.
“In Georgia everyone speaks English so we have a lot of schools that can offer lectures in English”
Our partner is the Technical University of Munich and all study programs are agreed to by TUM. It means that the quality of the academic programs and the quality of the professors will be very high. So after opening this university we will give a new opportunity to international students to learn about new study programs which are really very highly appreciated.
We will start with about 3,000 students, and year-by-year we want to make it bigger and bigger.
It will be in Kutaisi, the second city in Georgia and I think that it is good for the Kutaisi city development. I think it will be really revolutionary project not only in Georgia, but in the whole Caucuses region.
The PIE: Is it important that you have partners like Technical University of Munich?
MN: It is very important because TUM is a really very good university in Europe. With the rankings and the history, it’s an old university with a fantastic practice and study programs. Making a university with real European standards in Georgia is a huge step in our development.