This is a short summary of the report prepared by Dr. Nino Chubinidze, the Director for Quality Assurance Department in Caucasus University (Tbilisi, Georgia) and presented during the seminar on Quality Assurance in Higher Education that took place on 26 March in Minsk
The entire review by Dr. Chubinidze is available at this link
The review is prepared by Janne Järvinen, the intern with the ODB
During the past ten years Georgia has been developing a Higher Education Quality Assurance System to improve the quality of the country’s higher education system. The development of the quality assurance system has been carried out in conjunction with the adoption of the main principles of the Bologna process. The ten year period for the development of the tertiary education system in Georgia is divided into three phases: I) Preparatory phase where institutional accreditation process was very technical and lacked contribution from the universities. II) QA System development reflects active participation from official governmental bodies, as well as from the academic society. III) The third term of Quality Assurance System Development in Georgia , which is an on-going process and covers not only institutional but also program evaluation area and actively encourages employers to make the system to adequate and appropriate to the global market needs. IV) The review of the future of the QA system development in Georgia.
I. The first term of Quality Assurance System Development in Georgia
In 2003 Georgia initiated reforms in the coutry’s educational system to bring it more in-line with the principles of the Bologna process and develop a quality assurance system. To start off the process, a comprehensive review of the existing higher education institutions (HEIs) was done and numerous shortcomings were detected often connected to outdated facilities, corruption and lack of professionalism among university staff. These shortcomings highlighted the need to reform the system of accreditation of HEIs in Georgia. The first institutional accreditation of HEIs became the duty of Accreditation and Licensing department of the Ministry of Education and Science. HEIs were required to evaluate their own institution in self-assessment reports which were used to develop the criteria HEIs need fulfil to be granted state accreditation. In short, a high quality of financial management, teaching, student services and professionalism of staff were the conditions for receiving accreditation. 135 local experts from various fields of expertise were employed to process the applications from HEIs. As result of the first term of HEI accreditation, 48 per cent of applicant institutions received accreditation. There were multiple shortcomings in the HEIs which failed to meet the criteria such as corruption, insufficient amount of personal study space, irregularities in financial management and outdated facilities. The accreditation process and its management during the first term raised considerable criticism in Georgian society. As a response to the criticism and to ease the adoption of the principles of the Bologna process, the National Education Accreditation Center (NEAC) was established to manage the accreditation process.
II. The Second Term of the Quality Assurance System Development - Active participation from Academic Society
In 2005 Georgia joined the Bologna process in Bergen and minister Kakha Lomaia took the responsibility for making the QA control at HEIs open and decentralized, and creating appropriate mechanisms for equal participation for both state and private institutions in the evaluation process. The process starts when a HEI submits a self-evaluation form to the NEAC. Based on the application NEAC forms a team of experts to evaluate the institution. A team of minimum three experts has to be approved by the institution and be independent of the institution. Accreditation experts have a great deal of responsibility in the process of accreditation and they received training from the New England HE Accreditation Center on how to successfully carry out the different stages of the accreditation process. Based on the feedback from the HEIs about the first term of institutional accreditation criteria, the assessment procedures were refined. A HEI was granted an institutional accreditation for 5 years if it met all general and all additional criteria A HEI was granted a conditional accreditation if it met all general criteria and did not but did not meet even one of the additional criteria. In case of conditional accreditation the institution is was not allowed to admit students. The institution was refused an accreditation if it did not meet even one of the general criteria. Main achievement of the second phase was the changes in attitudes towards the accreditation process. The academic society began to recognize the process as necessary condition for development and did not see it as a punishment from the government.
III. Third Term of Quality Assurance System Development in Georgia - Program Accreditation and Authorization.
Georgia’s economic competitiveness at the global labour market largely depends on the efficiency of the national tertiary education system, its planning according to the global market economy. The main policy change implemented in the tertiary education was obtaining a status of higher educational institution through authorization and cancel outdated licensing and its very technical procedures. Both accreditation and licencing were made the responsibility of a single institution - the National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement (the renamed NEAC) and the standards for these processes were developed with European experts in the frames of the TWINNING project on “Capacity Enhancement for Implementing Bologna Action Lines in Georgia”. In the third term, the authorization process focused on evaluating the quality of educational programs, material resources and human recourses in the applicant institutions. Moreover, every university was required to deliver annual reports which consist of three sections based on the three standards of authorization and each university also had to establish an internal quality assurance system if it did not already exist. The independence and partiality of the expert was a matter of concern as some members of the academic society doubted the professional ethnic of some accreditation experts.
IV. Thoughts on the future development of the QA System in Georgia
Five points can be made on the future developments of the QA system in Georgian educational system. Firstly, the National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement and its councils on authorization and program accreditation need to develop the quality of its work in order to match international standard. Secondly, the state should encourage professional associations to be involved in the quality evaluation of HE programmes. Thirdly, international QA experts need to be invited to take part in the program evaluation process and program accreditation not as funding condition but as ensure the high standard of the evaluation process. Fourthly, the selection criteria for the experts should be revised, foreseeing acceptance of members from broader academic and scientific society. Finally, the rules on determining the cost for authorization and program accreditation should be revised to make it relevant to the services and real expanses.