Two leading universities in Georgia suspiciously change their official position regarding academic degrees of GNCC members
Transparency International Georgia would like to respond to the recent change of official position by two leading higher education institutions – Tbilisi State University and Georgian Technical University – on whether academic degrees held by two members of the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) meet the academic qualification requirements set by the law.
The change of position was preceded by the publication of two investigative studies by Transparency International Georgia, revealing that academic degrees held by the GNCC chairperson Kakha Bekauri and commission member Merab Katamadze failed to meet the legal qualification requirements. This conclusion was based on an official letter received from Tbilisi State University (TSU) in case of Kakha Bekauri; and on an official letter received from the Georgian Technical University in case of Merab Katamadze.
Based on these two official documents, Transparency International Georgia was able to conclude that academic degrees held by the GNCC chairperson Kakha Bekauri and commission member Merab Katamadze are not equivalent to the academic qualification requirements set by law. However, soon after this conclusion was published, both universities changed their official position, raising considerable suspicion.
The documents provided by universities were a response to official letters sent by Transparency International Georgia requesting clarification on whether specific academic degrees met legal requirements. Personally identifiable information of GNCC members was redacted from the attached academic degrees in both request letters for the purpose of personal data protection. Both universities responded that none of the diplomas met legal qualification requirements.
However, after Transparency International Georgia published full information, including the identities of GNCC members, both universities changed their initial official position, raising questions about possible outside interference.
On February 20, the Georgian National Communications Commission issued a statement regarding Merab Katamadze's diploma, demanding that Transparency International Georgia “immediately” retract its conclusion that was based on a document signed by the Vice-Rector of Georgian Technical University L. Klimiashvili, according to which, the academic degree issued by the university to Merab Katamadze in 1981, (specialization – Automatic Control Systems, qualification – Engineer-Systems Technician, enrollment period – 1975-1981) is not equivalent to academic qualification required set by law for GNCC members (economics, public administration, business administration, law, electronic communications or journalism).
The GNCC bases its demand on a new letter signed by Archil Prangisvili, Rector of Georgian Technical University, on February 15, where the position is changed. The letter states that “Merab Katamadze's diploma, with the specialization in Automatic Control Systems and qualification of Engineer-Systems Technician, is equivalent to a Master's Degree in Electronic Communications”.
In case of Kakha Bekauri, head of Tbilisi State University Quality Management Department Irine Darchia stated that the position of the university changed after “careful consideration of the case”. According to the new position, Kakha Bekauri's diploma meets the academic qualification requirements set by the law. Irene Darchia had stated just the opposite a short time before.
The sudden and unsubstantiated change of position by Georgian Technical University and Tbilisi State University negatively affects their reputation and professionalism in the eyes of the Georgian public, as well as foreign partners, and raises questions about possible interference and the independence of these universities.
We call on both Georgian Technical University and Tbilisi State University to publicly offer their explanation as to why their official position was changed regarding the same document in such a short period of time.
We also call on the Ministry of Education to look into the level of professionalism and objectivity with which the above universities studied diplomas belonging to GNCC members; what caused such a sudden change of position in both universities and whether this was due to outside interference.