Giving Georgians the Chance to Excel: Meet UK Bridge
Education agency UK Bridge, founded by two friends and colleagues, Nutsa Kuridze and Ana Vetsko in 2008, has become a leader on the Georgian market, helping Georgian students to pave their way into leading international educational institutions in the UK, US, France, Italy, Czech Republic, Malta, Germany, Switzerland and Spain.
For the seventh time this year, UK Bridge is organizing an International Education Fair, on February 25, at Rooms Hotel Tbilisi, from 12 to 6 pm, at which top UK, US and European university, college, summer schools, as well as language school representatives, will present their study programs for anyone interested in pursuing their studies abroad.
GEORGIA TODAY met with the UK Bridge founders to talk about the upcoming exhibition and the story behind their company’s success.
Why did you decide to organize an International Education Fair?
Ana: First, we went to a number of international exhibitions and fairs ourselves. For educational agents like us, it’s a chance to get acquainted with the schools, universities and colleges and the programs they provide.
We decided to organize the fair in Tbilisi, because, for Georgians, notwithstanding the fact that we give them the maximum amount of information, it’s still very important to meet the school representatives themselves in person, face to face. So, we thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to have international school, and university representatives attending while parents and children are given a chance to get direct answers to all their inquiries.
Our fair is for those who are interested in getting any type of education abroad. This year, we have representatives from the Anglo-American University, Astrum Colleges, British Study Centers, Budapest Metropolitan University, Cambridge Education Group, Buckswood Overseas Summer School, EU Business School, Kings Education, Oxford International, Regent’s University London, City University London, IE University, MPW Schools and Colleges, EC English, Select English Cambridge, Stafford House, and Wimbledon School of English.
We get approximately 500 -700 visitors to the exhibition each year and to our delight, our attendees are focused: they know exactly what they’re looking for.
Nutsa: It’s really a great chance for students and parents to come over and choose the specific courses they would want to study, and to learn everything; from the prices to accommodation options. Short professional trainings for adults are also available. It’s all very detailed, and extremely informative.
Which of the programs UK Bridge offers tend to be most popular?
Ana: We try to offer the highest quality service to our clients. I would say that the list of our international partners is impressive and we are proud of that. We always choose our partners very carefully and have an individual approach to every student that comes to us. We need to know their interests, how they study, and what their abilities and skills are.
Nutsa: Summer schools are usually very popular, plus they are more affordable. Of the 200 -250 students we sending to study, 70 percent is for summer schools and for short professional courses, either in marketing or law. The remainder are for boarding schools and universities.
Is there a growing tendency in Georgia for seeking international education abroad?
Nutsa: I would say the awareness on international education possibilities is higher now, as we’re living in an era of advanced information technologies. When we started out, many families had no internet at home and relied on us fully. Today, there’s no more fear of sending a child abroad to study as both parents and children can do their research on their own. Plus, the segment itself is changing, too, and the need to invest wisely in your child’s quality education is apparent.
Do the students you send to study abroad always come back to Georgia?
Nutsa: From our experience, many of the children we send to Europe, the UK or the US, often start to work within their family business once they return home. Since we’re primarily focused on UK-based educational institutions, and the immigration laws there are very strict, the children are obliged to come back after they finish their studies. Another thing, of course, is that they have to be in demand within the workforce of their country. Studying at a top international university gives this chance. However, it’s not enough to just study abroad. One must study well and in a good university to be competitive enough and in demand back home. We have many very interesting success stories from our students. Quite recently, we came across one of our students, who we sent to school and then to the university, who is now our contact person in the advertising agency we’re working with.
What’s behind UK Bridge’s success?
Nutsa: We’re hard workers- that’s one of the reasons.
Ana: I think that when you start your own business, it’s very important to know the sphere you’re going to work in. You have to be experienced in it.
Wasn’t your decision to quit a well-paid job and start a new company on your own risky?
Ana: Nutsa and I both worked at the British Council Georgia for six years where Nutsa was in charge of the international education department, sending students to UK summer schools and colleges, and even after the British Council decided to close the program, the demand was still high. That’s when we thought to try and do it on our own and founded UK Bridge. We did it really quickly, within a month of leaving our jobs- we didn’t even have our own office. But as it was April, the season when parents usually plan summer school courses for children, we had to move fast.
Nutsa: We were young and confident, believing we could easily find another job if the project failed, unafraid of risking and quitting very good positions in a stable workplace. We sent almost 150 students that first year and nearly all the schools which we had worked with while at British Council became our partners. Their trust in us was very empowering.
Ana: From the beginning our friends supported us a lot, consulting on financial and legislative matters. They all instantly liked the idea of us founding an education agency and I can say we’re still very happy that we decided to do it. It makes me proud to realize that almost eight years ago, we launched our own company.