Georgia has doubled its number of international students in the past year, an unlikely beneficiary of African and some Asian students who fled Ukraine in the wake of the Russian invasion in 2022.
The country has proven to be attractive to students from the continent seeking to complete their studies in affordable destinations, charging fees close to amounts they were paying in Ukraine before the war broke out.
As a result, thousands of the students – many enrolled in medical and degree programs – are studying in some of the 62 universities in the former republic of the Soviet Union, along thousands of Indian counterparts who also fled the fighting.
The influx has totally changed the fortunes for Georgia and without much of marketing campaigns foreign student’s numbers in the country have shot from 14,000 in 2021 to the current figure of 25,000.
The Study in Georgia initiative was set up in 2016.
A half of the new students – about 11,000 – are from India and the African countries of Morocco, Nigeria and Algeria.
The change is despite the country not hosting highly-ranked universities, in what authorities attribute to low fees, affordable cost of living compared to other European destinations and an easy visa application process.
Many universities in the countries charged between US$5,000-$6,500 for degree programs, nearly five times lower than some of the more expensive European destinations.
About 20,000 African students – majority from Morocco, Nigeria and Egypt – were studying in Ukrainian universities before the war. A majority of them were enrolled in medical related and science degree programs.
“More than 500 students have transferred to our university from Ukraine following the war”
India, another country that has taken advantage of affordability in Georgia, had an estimated 18,000 students in Ukraine before the invasion, in what Kakha Shengelia, president of the Caucasus University in Tbilisi, says has been a game-changer for Georgia’s higher education.
“More than 500 students have transferred to our university from Ukraine following the war. They mainly come to our medical school, but there are students in other faculties such as business, international relations, IT and psychology,” Shengelia told Belgium-based publication Equal Times.
In 2018, a spokesperson for Study in Georgia explained that medical, business and engineering programs were the most popular among international students.
While thousands of African and Asian students who had been studying in Ukraine returned to their home countries after the 2022 chaos, others enrolled in universities across Europe including little known destinations such as Serbia.
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