Diplomas Don’t Make the Grade

georgia_university For more than 1,200 students in the Republic of Georgia, it sounds like a good deal. Go to school for four years and earn a degree from a university in Ukraine – without ever leaving Georgia.

A Studio Monitori investigation found that educational training centers throughout the country are holding classes and awarding diplomas from at least five Ukraine universities.

But these documents are not recognized as legitimate diplomas in Georgia, and while the Ukraine Ministry of Education does recognize the diplomas submitted from the five universities, a spokesman readily admits that nobody at the ministry knows anything about these Georgian programs.

Sergei Bondarenko, a spokesman for the Ukraine Ministry of Education, confirmed in a phone interview that the five are legitimate universities, and that such institutions have the right to offer programs abroad and confer diplomas. Ukraine, however, does not regulate or do on-site inspection of the programs in Georgia.

But these programs fall afoul of Georgian regulations.

The Ukraine universities are:

  • International Academy of Personnel Management
  • International European University of Ukraine
  • Poltava State Agrarian Academy
  • Odessa International Humanitarian University
  • Krok University

Studio Monitori reporters visited several of the Georgian training centers and identified themselves as potential students. The undercover reporters heard a variety of attractive offers from the various programs:

  • They would not have to pass the national entrance exam required for all accredited universities in Georgia.
  • They often would not have to pass any entrance exam at all – just provide paperwork and complete a simple interview.
  • They did not need to read the Ukrainian or Russian language.
  • They didn’t have to ever set foot in Ukraine.

Since 2010, Georgian law has required branches of foreign schools operating in Georgia to obtain permissions from the Ministry of Education. The organizations Studio Monitori interviewed have no such permissions.

One of those organizations is GUMA Meridian +. According to its founder, Jemal Kharebava, his organization does not need permission because it is a limited liability corporation (LLC) and does not actually issue diplomas itself.

According to Decree #98 from the Georgia Ministry of Education, students educated abroad must submit a document confirming their stay abroad in order to have their diplomas recognized.

Ana Maisuradze is the head of the ministry’s Division for Recognition of Education. She was asked what would happen if a Georgian student obtained a diploma from a foreign country without ever having traveled to that country.

“The diploma will not be recognized, because we will surely require a document proving the student’s stay abroad,” Maisuradze said. Without it, “no recognition will be granted.”

At the same time, the ministry says it has no legal mandate to stop these learning centers from offering the Ukrainian diploma programs.

“It is not the responsibility of the Ministry of Education to maintain quality control at these institutions since, according to our legislation, they are not educational institutions,” Maisuradze said.

So the centers stay open, and students continue to study for diplomas that are not recognized in Georgia.