Kutaisi International University, or KIU, is one of Georgia’s newest and most cutting-edge higher learning institutions. The university, the largest campus-based university in the South Caucasus, was opened in 2020, offers an expertly designed campus on 158 hectares (390 acres) of land, and English language programs in management, mathematics, and computer science (undergraduate level).
In partnership with the Technical University of Munich (TUM), KIU is now introducing yet another program with the announcement of the admission of students to a new master’s program in “Finance and Information Management – FIM”. The FIM program was established at TUM in 2004 and has been ranked top by the nationwide CHE Master-Ranking of 2008, 2011, 2014, 2017, and 2020 of the newspapers “Die Zeit” and “Handelsblatt”, ranking 1st in all categories. This program aims to equip students with advanced technical knowledge as well as the career opportunities to excel in the financial sector.
GEORGIA TODAY sat down with Natia Zedgenidze, the Head of the School of Management and co-chair of the FIM program at Kutaisi International University School to speak about this new opportunity. Dr. Zedgenidze has worked in the field of education for years, particularly in higher education. She discusses the new program’s potential, how the FIM program stands out from other university programs, and how this is a growth opportunity for education in Georgia.
What makes KIU a perfect place for this new program?
KIU has committed itself to offering its students an excellent practice-oriented education at the highest level. In doing so, excellence, the entrepreneurial mindset, as well as integrity, are to be created and adapted into the students’ way of thinking and acting. The degree program fits seamlessly into this concept.
With FIM education programs, KIU, namely the School of Management (where the FIM program will be delivered to future students), offers a comprehensive program portfolio that puts into action the idea of lifelong learning and the mandate of an offer of study and continuing education. In accordance with the strategic orientation of the school, international management education takes place in all programs at the interface of economics with engineering, natural and/or life sciences, with a strong entrepreneurial component.
The design of digital business models is one of the major societal and entrepreneurial challenges to be addressed by the school in research and teaching. In the field of financial services, the transformation to digital business models is taking place at a particularly high speed. With the introduction of the Master’s in Finance and Information Management, this is also being reflected in education.
The content of the programs varies according to the different admission requirements and the individual educational background of the applicants. The FIM program of the School of Management can be divided into the following categories:
(1) Interdisciplinary management program with a focus on engineering, natural and life sciences;
(2) Program that provides basic management training for students with a technical or scientific first degree;
(3) Programs in the area of continuing education: The faculty’s area of continuing education is structured analogously to this strategy.
In the FIM for professionally experienced persons with management responsibility, the participants will further develop into effective and responsible managers through the expansion of knowledge, the development of their competences and the development of their personality.
How does this differ from other financial and IT Master’s programs in Georgia?
The present Master’s program is not yet offered in its overall concept and objective at any other university in Georgia. The closest to the Finance and Information Management degree programs are Finance Management degree programs with the option of specializing in the field of Information Management, and Information Management with the option of specializing in the field of Finance.
For comparability, only programs with a Master of Science degree program in either Finance or Information Management are experienced on the Georgian market. Yet those financial management degree programs do not have a link to Information Management. The possibility of taking information management as an explicit specialization was offered by KIU with its Master of Science in Finance degree program. No other financial management study programs are known in Georgia in which the areas of financial management and information management can be combined or even linked as focal points.
Further, no information management degree program can be found in which the fields of Finance and Information Management are linked in a way as in our Finance and Information Management program. In some cases, Information Management courses include in-depth modules from the field of Economics. In most cases, however, these are comparatively general in-depth modules in economics. Only KIU offers a specialization in Finance and Economics in its FIM program.
The possibility of obtaining this particularly research-oriented qualification profile through the modules within the framework of the Master’s program is unique in Georgia in the case of the Finance and Information Management program.
The Master’s program in Finance and Information Management is located in the School of Management. By focusing on the topics of digital finance, financial management, information technology and financial mathematics, in conjunction with entrepreneurial thinking and acting, this degree program is character-forming and adds a new component to the portfolio at the School of Management.
There is a diverse list of areas where FIM program graduates can find employment or continue their professional careers. Those sectors will be most in demand and high-paying by 2030, such as the financial sector; start-ups, especially the so-called FinTech sector (FinTech) and insurance-tech (Insure-Tech) companies; insurance companies; investment companies; consulting organizations that specialize in consulting digital financial services, conceptual software design and development; healthcare and pharmaceuticals; computer and data science sector; multinational companies in distribution and production/manufacturing sectors. The career opportunities of the FIM program cover all sectors where financial management technology models are needed.
I would also emphasize the concentrations that the FIM program includes: Quantitative Finance – (QF); Financial Management (FM); and Business and Information Systems Engineering – (BISE). Involving international academic personnel from the Technical University of Munich, the University of Toronto and other higher education institutions creates and adds more value to the program.
The third and not least important factor I would name is the academic personnel of the program. The FIM program head at KIU is the Head of the Financial Mathematics Department at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), Professor Rudi Zagst, who is the creator and implementer of the program at TUM. Prof. Zagst will personally deliver some courses under the FIM program, as will his collegues from Toronto University and other international professors. There are many international professors in the Management School who will be teaching during the learning period. Their international experiences on a global level and technology focused skills, represent knowledge I am sure will create a golden opportunity for future FIM students to explore and gain the best from the program.
The annual program fee is GEL 12,250 for Georgian citizens, and 7,000 Euros for foreign citizens. The fee covers local transportation (Tbilisi-Kutaisi-Tbilisi), KIU International University shuttles, a welcome kit with a laptop (if necessary, a KIU laptop can be provided free of charge for the program duration), email, Office365, corporate kit, access to KIU LMS, an online library, and more.
The KIU offers tuition funding to the best 10 candidates. Funding can be obtained after the application procedure and submission of relevant documents. Funding will be provided through the budget allocated within the relevant category. It is a competitive process and scores obtained in the Master’s exam will be taken into consideration.
Are they any obstacles you see with the program, such as enrollment numbers, staffing, etc.?
Well, the FIM program is totally new in the Georgian market and there is no such experience of combining multidisciplinary areas (such as Finance and Information Management) into one program. You cannot find any other master’s degree programs in Georgia that are so rich with in-demand and at the same time challenging courses! We offer Blockchain System Engineering, Blockchain Based Systems Engineering, Complex IT Inspection and Audit (IT Due Diligence & Audit), Financial Econometrics, Machine Learning, Digital Disruption, Innovation and Transformation, and more.
It’s impossible to find people who can deliver those courses on an academic level, in English and with modern and relevant teaching formats. Why? Because the program concept is totally new for the domestic market, and that in turn requires and demands high level professionals with mixed knowledge and skills in finance and information management.
Yet, I don’t see a challenge in terms of academic personnel, as we already have well established and experienced professionals, international academic staff at KIU, and on the School of Management board.
I consider a challenge the limited number of students who will be able to become MSc FIM Program students for of a couple of reasons:
1) Program admission requirements which limit the number of potential applicants for the program. Namely, admission requirements ask for one out of the following areas: finance, economics, business & information systems engineering, computer science, information technologies, information systems, mathematics, statistics or related study fields, physics, computer engineering.
2) The total number of students in the FIM program – we opened for a maximum of 15 students. This number is low, but we established the same standard by suggestion of FIM program supervisor Prof. Zagst, the same total number of students set at TUM due to the individual working and study approach/collaboration towards each student under the program.
Could this new program open the door for additional opportunities in education for Georgia?
The FIM program and KIU platform are concepts of teaching, meaning and architecture of programs, focused on international and global requirements and on the Georgian educational research market will set the new voice and demand of the global world. While the technology era is setting its requirements to different areas/sectors of the markets, the combination and mixture of economics, finance, econometrics, information management, IT, statistics, engineering, etc. disciplines under the FIM program, will bring a new cohort of human capital into the market.
I strongly believe the FIM program graduates will establish new experience and improvements in their existing or future companies; they will be new words in the local market and create competitive advantages not only at the personal level, but in terms of company levels.
Are there any other upcoming programs prospective students, partner organizations, and the education industry should be on the look-out for at KIU?
Yes, there is another new PhD in Economics program at the School of Management, that will start in fall 2022 and get doctorate students on board. The PhD Students will conduct their research and academic activities under the mentorship and supervision of our international professors. We have great and well experienced international and national researchers and academics in Economics: Prof. Steffen Sirries, Prof. Martin Leroch, and Prof. Murtaz Kvirkvaia. I am sure that our doctorates will create valuable research and elaborate outstanding doctorates in the area of economics.
I would like to add that in October 2022, Munich Technical University students from the FIM program are visiting the KIU campus. They will share their experience in the FIM program, as well as prepared projects with KIU, FIM Students. Prof. Zagst explains this as a great opportunity to create bridges and tighten links between TUM and KIU FIM program students that will increase the collaborative and experience sharing education process.
Interview by Michael Godwin