Prior to 1991 only the state-established higher education institutions were operating in Georgia. Since 1991 private higher education institutions have been also offered an opportunity to conduct educational activities. However, in order for them to function as educational institutions it was mandatory to obtain a license providing the right to implement educational activities. Such license was a precondition for the issuance of the recognized educational documents. The licensing procedure monitored the compatibility of educational institutions with the state-established standards, including programme standards. The educational documents issued in compliance with the Georgian legislation before the beginning of 2005-2006 academic year by licensed higher education institutions or the HEIs regarded to be licensed, pursuant to the law, are recognized by the state, notwithstanding the accreditation status of these institutions.
On December 21, 2004 the Law of Georgia on Higher Education was introduced allowing only the institutionally accredited HEIs to issue the state-recognized Diplomas. The educational license was a precondition for obtaining institutional accreditation. The licensing became compulsory also for those HEIs that had been established by the state. Thus, the state provided institutions with the authority (license) to conduct higher education activities; nevertheless, the state recognized the educational documents issued by these institutions only in case if the HEIs concerned were granted institutional accreditation. Institutional accreditation was mandatory for state higher education institutions, while for private higher education institutions it was a voluntary procedure. A licensed private HEI not intending to issue state-recognized documents was able to avoid the institutional accreditation procedure. Accredited and licensed HEIs operated, and both state-recognized and non-recognized educational documents were available in the same regime.
The Law of Georgia on Higher Education has introduced the notion of programme accreditation which involved state recognition and funding. However, the law postponed programme accreditation first to the beginning of 2010-2011 academic year, and then further to the beginning of 2013-2014 academic year. In fact, the programme accreditation envisaged by the first version of the Law of Georgia on Higher Education has not been implemented in Georgia.
The state-recognition of educational documents was based not only on the status of the institution concerned but also on the enrollment of individuals in HEIs in compliance with the regulation established by legislation. In 2004 the Law of Georgia on Higher Education introduced the Unified National Examinations as a mandatory measure for obtaining a student status.
The institutions operating in the licensed regime, even if granted institutional accreditation, were not allowed to issue the recognized Diplomas to individuals that had not obtained a student status through the Unified National Examinations.
Due to the reforms implemented in 2010 the licensing procedure was abolished and institutional accreditation and programme accreditation were substituted by authorization and accreditation, respectively.
Authorization of educational institutions has been determined as a procedure of acquisition of the status of a higher education institution, which aims at ensuring the compliance with standards necessary for carrying out of relevant activities for the issuance of state-recognized educational documents. Therefore, only the authorised institutions are entitled to conduct the state-recognized educational activities.
Accreditation has been defined as a procedure aimed at determining the compatibility of an educational programme of a higher education institution with accreditation standards aiming at the establishment of regular self-evaluation for the improvement of educational quality and promotion of the development of quality assurance mechanisms linked to state funding. Accreditation is voluntary; however, it is only mandatory for regulated programmes (Medicine, Law and Education) as well as Third Cycle (Doctoral) educational programmes. Accreditation started in Georgia in 2011. Although, compared to programme accreditation envisaged by the first version of the Law of Georgia on Higher Education, accreditation was not linked to the authority of issuing state-recognized Diplomas for any programmes other than regulated ones and PhD.
Commensurate with the current legislative framework, authorised higher education institutions provide state-recognized educational programmes, irrespective of their accreditation, and issue state-recognized educational documents – Diplomas.