The FINANCIAL — The number of graduates applying for master’s degrees in Georgia has increased by almost 30% in the last academic year, according to the National Examination Center (NAEC).
The prospect of a better job is the main driving factor in this increase in applicants pursuing a higher level of qualification. The top universities have stated that their tuition fees have remained unchanged for this new academic year.
According to the National Examination Center (NAEC), 9,626 applicants registered for MA exams this year. By comparison, last year the number was 6,862.
Over 55% of the respondents interviewed by The FINANCIAL stated that with a master’s diploma they hope to be more competitive at prospective job fairs. The number that have changed their profession after finding their graduate qualification effectively useless is 35%, and the remaining 10% are targeting the opportunity to continue their studies abroad. “Many universities offer exchange programmes and with student status it is easier to apply to foreign institutions,” many believe. Over 200 applicants were questioned by The FINANCIAL on the subject.
In reality however, there are few companies in Tbilisi which prioritise MA graduates when hiring mid level staff. Many leading companies do not even have statistics categorising their employees by education.
“We do not have statistics categorising MA and BA graduates,” Irina Mardakhiashvili, Head of the Administrative and HR Department at Gulf, told The FINANCIAL. The majority of our employees at top positions do have a Master’s diploma. However, this is not a significant factor for us. Work experience is more important. We recently hired two workers to top level positions, who incidentally both have master’s degrees, but during the hiring process that was not a key point for us.
Salary does not vary in accordance with diploma or degree. We decide it in accordance with the position,” Mardakhiashvili said.
An MA is an advantage if a jobseeker is considering working in top management. However, it’s not essential.
“We try not to turn away experienced workers just because they do not have a master’s diploma. We instead recruit them to our company,” an HR manager at one of the leading Georgian banks told The FINANCIAL.
Lili Bibilashvili, President at HR Professional Guild, said that managerial skills and relevant experience for the position still remain the leading criteria for employers.
“The importance of an MA diploma for employers varies. If a jobseeker wants to continue their career in a scientific institution (become a lecturer) then it is an important step.
A master’s degree may be required for top positions, however it is a required, but not sufficient in itself, condition. Managerial skills and relevant experience to the position still remain the leading criteria.
As for applying for a non-managerial position, it might even prove to be an obstacle. If the employer believes that the master’s degree holder is in fact “overqualified” for the position, they may therefore not even consider such a candidate.
The employer also pays attention to which particular university the candidate has graduated from. They mainly consider those with diplomas from the colleges whose reputations are quite high among employers and among the public in general,” said Bibilashvili.
In her words, an interesting phenomenon has been observed on the labour market for a while now. “On the one hand there are many unemployed people and on the other hand, companies cannot find suitable staff. The number of graduates is increasing annually. There was a 30% increase in applicants for master’s degrees in just a one year period.”
In addition, Bibilashvili added several criteria that could be causing the increased demand for Master’s degrees: “A) Accessibility to MA programmes is one of the reasons,” she said. “Reduced tuition fees and increased number of places; B) Deepening the amount of education gained after graduation. It seems that a significant amount of young people believe that their knowledge is not enough for employment (which is not far from the truth) and they think that a master’s degree will help them to find jobs, which is not true; C) Getting a new specialisation is also another motivator. Some of the MA students are changing specialization due to various reasons; D) Fashion – is an important factor. It is considered fashionable and prestigious to have a master’s diploma; E) Escaping army conscription (for men); F) Abundance of free time; and G) It being a necessary step for scientific work.”
University of Georgia, Free University of Tbilisi and Georgian-American University have not increased tuition fees for the current academic year.
University of Georgia received 226 applications for its MA programmes for the current academic year. Last year the number was 180.
“We offer the most competitive price (GEL 3,000 annually) compared to all the other private universities,” said Ketevan Meparishvili, Head of the Strategic Development and Marketing Department at the University of Georgia.
“The largest competition was for the faculty of business administration. 88 applicants applied for this programme,” Meparishvili said.
“The employment market is the main determiner of the popularity of this faculty. Mostly people with managerial skills are hired to top positions,” she explained.
Free University of Tbilisi offers master’s programmes of MBA and MBA OM (Operations Management). 98 graduates applied for the MBA programme and 85 for the MBA OM this year. Last year the university received 171 applications for its MBA programme, and as for the MBA OM, there was only demand for the corporate programme which received 35 candidates.
“Quality of education is the main factor determining the increase or decrease of applicants for master’s programmes. The demand for master’s programmes has been increasing at Free University every year. The tuition fee for the MBA programme, which lasts 18 months, is EUR 6,600. The fee for the MBA OM programme, which lasts 15 months, is EUR 3,950,” said Tea Khinchagashvili, Study Programmes Sales Manager at Free University of Tbilisi.
“Career advancement shortly after graduation or during studying is the main factor determining the popularity of the aforementioned programmes,” she said.
Two master’s programmes: MBA and Master of Law (LLM) are offered by Georgian American University (GAU).
The number of candidates that applied this academic year is 68. The figure was 60 last year.
Tuition fee per MBA course at GAU for year is GEL 5, 900. The annual tuition fee for the LLM programme is GEL 5,000. For graduates of the Law programme at GAU the fee is GEL 4,000.
“The high quality of the education is the main factor why students choose our university to study at. Many of our graduates go on to continue their education by getting a master’s degree at our university,” said Nanutsa Kiknadze, Marketing and Communications Assistant at GAU.
Yet in today’s Georgia, with the unemployment rate at 15%, the main question is – will the added qualification of a master’s guarantee graduates a job at the end of it? Ann Vakhtangashvili, who holds an MA from one of the leading Georgian universities, is sceptical.
“I guess it shows to people that you have a certain degree of self-discipline, but I think employers prefer to see experience on a CV rather than a load of educational merits,” she explains.
“Education is generally considered one of the best and safest means of investment but that is not always the case in Georgia. You can spend over GEL 5,000-10,000 on an MA programme but then earning this money back is not easy,” Vakhtangashvili told The FINANCIAL.