Ideal Prospects for Doctoral Training in Georgia, Armenia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan

Newly developed doctoral programs offer ideal prospects for education and careers at six universities in Central Asia and the Caucasus: In cooperation with local institutions, the Volkswagen Foundation is supporting the programs with around 4.1 million euro. The aim is to promote long-term capacity building in science.

Betreuung und Unterstützung auch bei Auslandsaufenthalten
Close supervision and support also during stays abroad are important components of a good doctoral education. (Credit: Gordon Welters for Volkswagen Foundation)

A total of six structured doctoral programs have been set up at universities in Tbilisi, Yerevan, Samarkand and Astana. They encompass a wide range of subjects, including mathematics, physics, agriculture and cultural studies. The universities concerned benefit greatly from the expertise of their German cooperation partners which support the development of a coordinated system of mentoring, research and education in accordance with international standards and, in addition, offer early-career researchers options for exchange and networking. The share contributed by the universities in the Caucasus and Central Asia amounts to a total of 2.45 million euro, with the Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation in Tbilisi supporting the four Georgian projects with around 270,000 euro each.

The Agricultural University of Georgia, Tbilisi / Georgia, hosts the doctoral program "Sustainable Agricultural and Food Systems (SAFS)". It is initially open to ten Georgian doctoral students and one from Germany. The program’s interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research ensures the young scientists are networked with more experienced researchers to work on complex and interconnected topics of agricultural and food systems in Georgia and the South Caucasus region. This project is being developed together with the University of Kassel.

The "International Doctoral Program Mathematics", which covers topics from the areas of algebraic topology and homologous algebra, mathematical analysis, stochastics and financial mathematics, started in spring 2018. It is being implemented at the Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Tbilisi / Georgia; the rules and procedures are based on those at the University of Göttingen, which is a partner in this project, making the program compatible with international standards and thus enabling binational doctoral procedures. The language of instruction is English throughout, and the program includes flexible modules for research, study and key competences. The students are mentored by mixed supervising committees. Initially, one German and ten Georgian doctoral students will take part, whose already favorable academic career prospects in Georgia will be further improved.

The joint program "Theoretical and Experimental Particle Physics" planned to start at the Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Tbilisi / Georgia and Yerevan State University, Yerevan / Armenia will initially be open to two German, five Armenian and five Georgian doctoral students. A high level of education is the prerequisite for a fruitful exchange between early-career researchers from these countries and Germany and should also counteract the unrestrained exodus of successful and ambitious young talent. In the medium term, it is expected that students from neighboring countries will also be attracted to the offer. Here, the German partners are the University of Bonn, the University of Siegen and Forschungszentrum Jülich (Jülich Research Center).

The aim pursued with the program titled "Structured Education – Quality Assurance – Freedom to Think" at Ilia State University, Tbilisi, Georgia, is to make a substantial and sustainable contribution towards improving doctoral education in Georgia. In a first step, the best-qualified doctoral candidates will be identified for twelve fields of science (general linguistics, language and language evolution, Eastern European history, studies in religion and cultural studies, political science, astrophysics, cosmology, geophysics, chemical biology, forest ecology, development economics, constitutionalism). The students will receive close supervision from the two participating universities (Ilia State University, ISU, and the University of Göttingen). In the second step, an International Doctoral School will be established at ISU. This will consolidate the newly set up structures and services. The aim is for it to be established as an umbrella organization for all doctoral students at Ilia State University by 2022 – and also to serve as a model for modern and transparent doctoral training. Responsible for this project are the University of Göttingen and Ilia State University, Tbilisi / Georgia. 

The restructuring of agricultural land and water use is highly relevant in Central Asian countries. Against this background, the graduate school "Sustainable Agricultural Development in Central Asia", which is planned at the Samarkand Agricultural Institute, Samarkand / Uzbekistan, will enable ten doctoral students to undertake scientific research in the field of sustainable agricultural development, taking into account economic, social and environmental aspects. The focus is on five overarching themes: Restructuring agricultural undertakings and relations in agriculture, agricultural innovation and technology, agricultural policy, transformation of the natural environment and agriculture, and water governance. Project partners are the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Development in Transformation Economies (IAMO), Halle / Saale, and the Samarkand Agricultural Institute, Samarkand / Uzbekistan.

The doctoral program "Eurasian Studies and Beyond" at Nazarbayev University, Astana / Kazakhstan is the very first doctoral program in the humanities and social sciences in Central Asia. The teaching program aims to provide students with a broad knowledge of Eurasian Studies, a solid foundation in the theories and methods of the two disciplines, and a deeper understanding of interdisciplinary work. In total, ten participants in two cohorts will receive their doctorate from Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan. Their education will include courses in one major discipline each (sociology, anthropology, history, linguistics, literary studies or Turkology) and a second discipline related to Eurasia (philosophy, religion, political science and international relations, education, linguistics or cultural studies). The Humboldt University of Berlin and Nazarbayev University, Astana / Kazakhstan, are jointly hosting the program.

Link to further information on the funding initiative "Between Europe and the Orient – A Focus on Research and Higher Education in/on Central Asia and the Caucasus".