Is ISET’s new BA program winning the fight for best brains in Georgia?

Is ISET’s new BA program winning the fight for best brains in Georgia?

Is ISET’s new BA program winning the fight for best brains in Georgia?

The FINANCIAL -- It is no secret that the global competition for best brains is as intense as ever. Having adequate human capital can put a country on the trajectory of perpetual growth, assert economists.

The ‘brain wars’ typically play out in the setting of national and multinational companies competing for talent, but some of the most intense fights happen between universities struggling to recruit and retain the best young minds on the planet. Even the elite institutions such as Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Oxford and Cambridge are only as good as the quality of their last freshmen class. To grow and maintain the existing reputation, these universities need to attract the best students on the international level.

Yet, the brain wars are as intense on the national level, here in Georgia, as they are anywhere in the world.

For over a decade, International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University (ISET) has had a remarkable success attracting the best minds in Georgia who wished to study economics on the Masters level. The program propelled almost 300 Masters graduates on to fascinating careers in academia, the government and the private sector. Thanks to the growing reputation in the Caucasus region 1, ISET was able to expand its student base, as well as launch a new Bachelor program in economics in 2017.

But just as Harvard and Cambridge, ISET’s success rests on the quality of its incoming class. This year a total of 53 students have embarked on the four-year journey to earn ISET’s first BA degree 2. So, how do new ISET BA students compare to other economics BA hopefuls in Georgia? How competitive is ISET program? Our team analyzed a trove of unique data from the cohort entering Georgian universities this year.

According to the National Assessment and Examination Center (NAEC), around 39,000 pupils participated in the Unified National Examination (UNE) this year. Furthermore, 28,176 pupils became university students. Only 50 students among this huge number of candidates became ISET’s BA students.

Gender and Regional Distribution of Students

If we look at the distribution of the newly enrolled university students and their scaled scores by gender, we will discover that both of these variables are gender-balanced. According to the NAEC data, 51% of the entrants in 2017 were female and the average scaled score for females was only slightly higher than for males. In the case of ISET, the gender distribution was a little bit more skewed towards male students, as 27 students out of 50 (54%) were males. Furthermore, the average scaled score for female participants was a little bit higher than for males.

Despite the more or less equal distribution of students’ gender, regional variation is notably skewed towards the capital of the country. As expected, Tbilisi was the most successful region in terms of the scores, followed, unexpectedly, by Gagra 3, Rustavi, Akhalgori, Sukhumi and Kutaisi.

In the case of ISET BA program, Tbilisi dominates as well (accounts for 80% of the incoming students). The remaining students are from Kutaisi (6), Samtredia (3) and Terjola (1).

Comparison of the different economic programs – the Demand side.

In our investigation we compare different educational programs in economics based on the number of applicants and average scores in the UNE. There were more than 10 universities offering a variety of economics programs. For better comparison, we focused only on those programs that required mathematics as the fourth elective subject on the Unified National Exams.

The demand for different economic programs, can be measured by the ratio of the number of applicants that made a particular economics program the first choice and the number of vacant places. As we can see, the leader in this regard is the Sukhumi State University with 1.9 first choice applications per vacant place. ISET’s BA program is among the leaders, occupying the fifth position with 1.6 first choice applications per vacant place. Notably, there were only 7 educational programs in economics that had more first choice applications than places. Furthermore, if we observe the total number of applicants per vacant places, we will find that the competition increases drastically. For instance, in case of ISET, this measure reaches to the 7 applicants per vacant place.