Ministry of Education calls on Tbilisi State University to end academic year with hybrid courses following student protest

Georgia’s Ministry of Education on Wednesday called on the administration of Tbilisi State University to end the current academic year in a hybrid format, following a two-week protest by students against the educational institution’s decision to eliminate the online teaching format starting in May. 2.

The intervention comes after the student protest and a statement from the Democracy Research Institute, a Georgia-based nongovernmental organization, on Wednesday that said the basis for TSU’s decision to fully transition to in-person studies was “unclear “.

Resuming face-to-face studies entirely two months before the end of the current academic year could not have a “significant positive impact” on the quality of education, the NGO said. He also pointed out the difficulty for students from Georgian regions to find accommodation in Tbilisi to attend classes, due to the rising cost of rent caused by increased inflation and an influx of Russian citizens seeking to stay in Georgia since the Russian invasion of Ukraine which began in February.

Housing affordability was the central issue of the University’s student protest, whose organizers claimed “thousands” of rural and small-town students had been unable to attend classes in the capital since the resumption of studies this month due to accommodation costs.

The University responded to the requests saying it did not have the funds to ensure the continuation of hybrid courses. The argument drew backlash from students who pointed to the institution’s promotion of upcoming entertainment events funded from its budget, and took other issues with the reasoning.

In their demands, the group of protesters also called on the University to address accommodation issues in its dormitories, with some students telling TSU administration officials at a meeting on Tuesday that the University’s online system The University had not registered them for the designated spaces in the dorms.

In its statement, the ministry urged the University to ensure the use of vacant spaces in dormitories.

Along with its main criticism, the DRI also pointed to the “lack of in-depth discussion” between TSU and students before the announcement of the decision to cut short online studies by the former. The NGO said the institution had “avoided holding an open dialogue” with students on the issue.

The organization called on the University to return to hybrid classes until the end of the current academic year and to address other “systemic issues” accumulated at the institution.

Student protests demanding reform have frequently taken place at TSU over the past decade. Organizers have raised issues ranging from the lack of the internationally adopted peer review system for its teachers, the use of the autonomous student body’s budget for entertainment events amid a perceived lack funds for translation and printing of academic materials, and other issues.