Post-high school education is diverse in Georgia. The nation's universities used to follow the Soviet five-year program but now have a four-year bachelor's degree program. A master's degree takes two to three years. The next level is called the aspirantura, which takes another three to four years and which ends in a candidate degree, a scientific degree that focuses on independent research. The highest degree given is the doctor of science.
Universities administer their own entrance exams. Each state university offers an entrance exam during the same week in August. Students must decide beforehand which university, program, and faculty they want to apply to. Private institutions hold their exams the following week. Reports of corruption are rampant. According to some estimates, about half the students purchase a copy of the test questions beforehand. Faculties have also been implicated in purchasing tests to help their students.
The nation's total higher education system is made up of 22 institutions, including universities, institutes, technicums, and cultural academies. Before independence, the state sponsored more than 100,000 students at these schools, providing a stipend based on school performance. In 1992, approximately 24 percent of Georgians of higher-education age were enrolled in higher education.
University studies typically provide highly specialized, rigid training focusing on a single area of study. Law and medicine students do not attend regular university, but go directly to law and medical school from high school. Law school takes five years to complete and medical schools seven, plus two to three years of ordinatura, which is comparable to an internship.
Although the Soviet government ran well-equipped vocational and technical schools, the schools were not popular, and the economic depression that followed independence saw the vocational and technical education system disintegrate. Much of the equipment was stolen and school buildings were occupied by other organizations. There had been 170 vocational technical schools enrolling 70,000 students in 300 branches, but by 1996 there were only 115 schools with 20,000 students and 150 branches.
Since 1996, the government has been working to reestablish vocational and technical education for those who could not attend universities. The programs train specialists in an improved technical system and offer courses for farmers, manufacturers, and businesspersons. Centers for education and industry were established in different parts of the country in the 1990s, and unemployed workers and persons changing professions were given opportunities for retraining.
Study in vocational and technical schools is three to four years. Graduates from those schools receive certificates that permit them to work in their fields of study. Those who pass special advanced courses can continue their education. Graduates of technical schools may acquire certificates as midlevel specialists for work as nurses, teachers, computer operators, and other fields of expertise. There are 32 such schools under the Ministry of Education. There are approximately the same number of schools under other ministries, such as health, culture, and agriculture. These schools are called technicums, and their graduates are permitted to enter higher education.
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