Tbilisi State University for Systemic Change of Georgian Education27 April 2016 / by Zviad Adzinbaia (author)
During previous months, Tbilisi State University (TSU) has become a scene for students fighting for making a substantial change into the Georgian education system.
The students initially formed two opposed sides: 1. TSU’s Student Self-Government. 2. A student movement ‘Room 115’ (the name stems from an auditorium the students have been gathering systematically), who have already gained popularity in the country.
The seemingly two divergent parties, actually contesting for the same cause – modernizing the mother university of Georgia – uncompromisingly protested against the Academic Council and the then Rector of the university, Vladimer Papava. The Young people accused key management of inappropriately spending the budget resources and mismanaging some core academic matters. Overtime, the protestants clashed physically and announced hunger strikes. All these ultimately resulted in unconditional resignation of the Rector.
Besides, one of the central topics of the student rebel was alleged presence of a special service representative in the institution, who was involved in the academic matters. The youth categorically opposed the ‘harmful practice’ inherited from the Soviet times.
After gaining the wide public support, the Room 115 announced about its broader goals. A leader of the union, Levan Lortkipanidze addressed the mass gathered in the university area, that Georgia’s mother institution should not only transform itself, but it should also become a scene for the massive changes in the national educational system.
Georgian Prime Minister closely followed the events developed in and around TSU. The PM privately visited the students for a closed discussion on the existing problems. Giorgi Kvirikashvili stated that he staunchly supports the reforms proposed and the protest is rightful. According to him, next meetings with the students are scheduled and he will be keenly involved in the process.
Tbilisi State University is the first University of Georgia, which marks its 100th birthday in 2018. TSU brings over 30 000 students together from across the nation.
Looking back to early developments at TSU, the problems of such kind have been existent even a couple of years ago. In fact, state subsidies and strong governmental control were considered the main source of the problems in the university. All these factors 'left the institution bereft of independent development and any tangible progress.' One of the proposals supported transformation of TSU into a public ownership and restriction of the state rights within the institution.
The opposite side claimed that taking the state status out of TSU would mean losing the initial mission TSU - a mother university of Georgia - that has endured for around a century. At the same time, the folks supporting the latter statement did propose any other alternative.
Currently, it is unclear which direction will Tbilisi State University choose in order to carry out rapid and effective reforms. Next month TSU will choose its new Rector, and the students who dedicated their time and efforts to the institution’s better future are keenly looking forward to improving the established undesired situation at TSU.