Higher Education and Research

Implementation of the Bologna Process in the Georgian Higher Education System (Tbilisi, 8-9 November 2005)

Closing remarks

Dear Minister, First Deputy Minister, Rectors, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Following the fruitful and lively meeting during these two days, please permit me to make some humble general observations and recommendations which aim also to summarise your concerns.

The Council of Europe:

- welcomes wholeheartedly the initiatives that Georgia has taken to implement the higher education reforms in line with the Bologna principles;

- welcomes, as the most important accomplishment, the adoption of the new higher education law; and encourages the full implementation of this law, in particular on issues such as the quality assurance, recognition of qualifications, university autonomy, active student participation in the decision making process, employability, mobility and social cohesion;

- encourages the Georgian authorities to establish a Rectors' Conference without which the reforms cannot be complete;

- supports the active involvement of the student governance body(ies) in the decision making process at the universities;

- expresses its appreciation of the work of the Georgian ENIC as an excellent source of reliable and transparent information;

- welcomes and further encourages the means taken against corruption and strongly supports the continuation of this courageous initiative;

- supports the efforts to increase quality research at the universities and welcomes the measures taken to increase equal access to research results, although it does recognise the financial difficulties in this domain.

The Council of Europe would like to recommend further development on:

- issues related to public and private universities - their functioning mechanisms, funding systems and accountability questions;

- pros and cons of internal and external quality assurance in higher education, in particular in the light of the Bergen declaration;

- provision and promotion of flow of reliable and transparent information between all the stakeholders (Ministry, higher education institutions, students, employers, sponsors) for which the role of the Georgian ENIC as well as the ENIC and NARIC Networks would be crucially important;

- further clarification of the role of and relations among the various sectors in higher education decision making bodies and further improvement of coordination and cooperation between the Ministry and all the stakeholders in higher education;

- increasing transparency and developing criteria for the prioritisation of the allocation of public and private funds for higher education.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you know, the Council of Europe is well-placed and willing to continue cooperation with the Georgian authorities, inter alia, on the above-mentioned issues, as much as its financial and human resources permit. This is especially important in order to avoid new dividing lines between various countries and regions of the "Greater Europe" and within the European Higher Education Area.

The Council of Europe will certainly continue its assistance to Georgia (and to other new members of the Bologna Process) through its bilateral, regional and intergovernmental activities and where/when possible jointly with the European Commission.

As a first step, the Council of Europe would suggest that the Georgian authorities establish a national Bologna Board/Follow-up Group and define its mandate.

This Group could bring together well-targeted representatives, limited in number from all the stakeholders (the Ministry, higher education institutions, students, employers, current and/or potential donors) plus some external support from international organisations, such as the Council of Europe, the European Commission, Bologna Promoters, European University Association (EUA) and the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA).

According to its mandate, this Group could identify the next set of priorities and follow-up their coordinated implementation.

One last but not least comment: Georgia should continue to participate in all international seminars/conferences concerning the Bologna Process, in particular the Bologna Follow-up Group, and needless to say, all Council of Europe activities in the field of Higher Education and Research.

By the way, I am pleased to inform you that the Austrian Presidency of the Bologna Process is considering organising a meeting for the "five new-comers" in Vienna on 25 January 2006. The Council of Europe strongly suggests that Georgia participates to this meeting.

The Council of Europe observes the very promising developments in the implementation of the Bologna principles in Georgia. It also realises and understands that these reforms will take some time and sometimes will be difficult and painful as is the case in other countries. Still it is worth taking up the challenge.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to finish by thanking the Georgian authorities for their efficient and kind cooperation in co-organising this meeting with the Council of Europe and also giving us the privilege to get to know better this beautiful city and its beautiful people.

Thanks to all.