Georgia has a trade deficit with many countries, due to various reasons including the lack of manufacturing, qualified staff, and oil reserves in our nation. In 2014, exports totaled $2,861 million, while imports stood at $8596 million. That brings our negative trade balance (the value of exported goods minus the value of imported goods) to $5735 million. This is obviously not good for the economy.
But there is another kind of trade happening as well: an educational one. In the 2014-21015 academic year, the Department of Statistics states that 434 Georgian students left to study abroad. Their host countries were most often Germany (19%) and Poland (9%). In the same year, 4780 foreign students came to study at Georgian universities. The majority of these students came from Azerbaijan, followed by students from India and Iraq. These foreign students inject a significant amount of money into the university system, paying tuition rates that are 520% higher than their Georgian classmates.
The choice to study abroad is often based on the quality of the education system available in one’s own country, but it also requires the knowledge of a foreign language, academic achievement, and financial support. To better understand how people in Russia and Georgia view the practice of studying abroad, the Levada Center – a prominent independent research firm in Russia – and Georgian Opinion Research Business International (GORBI) asked survey respondents: “Do you want you or your children to study at institutions of higher education in Western countries?”
The survey results showed interesting differences between the two countries. While the vast majority (87%) of Georgians answered positively to the question, Russians were more hesitant with only 36% of respondents answering “Yes.” Only 5% of Georgian respondents were opposed to the idea, and a full 40% of Russians did not support studying abroad.
In the chart below, we have shown the net rating for this answer (Yes responses – No responses) to highlight just how dramatic the difference between the two countries is.
From looking at the “Don’t Know” responses, you can also see that Russians are more often undecided that their Georgian counterparts, with 15% of Russians choosing neither positive or negative responses.
The collapse of the Soviet Union brought a number of difficulties to Georgia, including in our university system. Thanks to Western aid, we have slowly been recovering and building a new education system. In addition, state funding and recent private investments (like the 500million Euros being invested in a new university in Tbilisi) have bolstered our national universities. However, it is still important for us to send many Georgian students to the West so that they come back with more knowledge and connections – both academic and business. I myself studied in both the UK and the U.S. and found the process instrumental in turning my business into a truly international venture. Unfortunately, it looks unlikely that we will overcome our “educational trade deficit” in the near future.
GORBI is a regional hub for partner organizations and international clients. Since 2003, GORBI remains an exclusive member of Gallup International research network for its two decades of experience in survey research in post-Soviet Union countries, as well as Mongolia and Iraq. This data was provided exclusively to the Financial.