The western Georgian city of Kutaisi hosted the opening of Kutaisi International University, founded by the ruling Georgian Dream party chairman Bidzina Ivanishvili, the country’s richest man, on October 21.
The newly established university has welcomed 246 students in the first cohort. Closely collaborating with the Technical University of Munich, it will be offering vocational, undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate degree programs. Alexandre Tevzadze, former Deputy Education Minister who holds degrees in Physics and Mathematics, is serving as the rector.
Top Georgian officials, including President Salome Zurabishvili, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, and Speaker Archil Talakvadze, as well as foreign diplomats and representatives of the international organizations attended the event.
In her remarks at the opening ceremony, President Salome Zurabishvili compared the opening of the new Kutaisi University to that of the establishment of Tbilisi University in 1918, in the wake of Georgia’s regaining independence following the dissolution of the Russian Empire.
President Zurabishvili said KIU represents an “extended arm for the youth from Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, giving them a unique opportunity to create their own future, feel themselves as free citizens of the contemporary world.”
The President also stressed KIU’s potential reconciliatory role between Azerbaijanis and Armenians – “two nations dear to us” – by hosting the students from both Azerbaijan and Armenia, among others.
In his address, PM Giorgi Gakharia underscored the importance of KIU’s special focus on fundamental sciences “in which [Georgia] has been facing a serious flaw over the past decades.” Gakharia then congratulated the city of Kutaisi on its new function as an educational center.
According to the information provided on the KIU website, the Cartu Foundation is investing over EUR 1 billion into the development of the Kutaisi International University project.
Ivanishvili first voiced his plans to build a university in Kutaisi in 2012, during one of his campaign meetings ahead of the parliamentary elections, where he successfully challenged the United National Movement, whose leader, ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili had previously voiced plans for a similar establishment in Batumi.
The Kutaisi International University’s building plans were first presented in 2016. And it was supposed to receive students in the 2019 academic year, but the dates of beginning the construction have been repeatedly postponed, delaying the official opening till October 2020.
Similar to 2012 and 2016 announcements, 2020 opening takes place on the eve of the parliamentary elections.