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Public Defender Establishes Discrimination towards PhD Students

On April 15, 2020, the Public Defender of Georgia addressed the Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of Georgia and the Minister of IDPs from the Occupied Territories, Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia with a recommendation concerning direct discrimination on the ground of academic degree of higher education.

The recommendation was based on an application of a PhD student, who indicated that he could not enjoy the benefits provided for students under the state universal health care programme, as according to the relevant regulation, the circle of beneficiaries of the so-called "student package" is limited to students studying in the higher education institution to get bachelor's, master's or certified doctor/dentist's degrees, or are studying the Georgian language preparation educational programme.

After analyzing the relevant legislative norms and existing social benefits, the Public Defender established that PhD and other higher academic degree students are essentially in the same position for the objectives of receiving various types of social benefits from the State. Notwithstanding the above, the applicant, as a PhD student, cannot enjoy the preferential health care conditions provided for students, which is one of the ways of ensuring access to medical care and a significant guarantee of access to higher education.

In the process of examining the case, the limited budgetary allocations were indicated as the only reason for the different treatment, which, according to national and international standards, cannot be considered reasonable justification. The relevant bodies have not provided any other type of justification that would refer to the needs of certain categories of students in terms of enjoying benefits provided under the state universal health care programme.

Based on the above, the Public Defender recommended the relevant agencies to ensure that PhD students have access to the social and health care benefits and state programmes, including the so-called "student package" under the universal health care programme, on an equal basis with students of other degrees of higher education and to be guided by the principle of equality when planning social/health care benefits and developing state programmes in the future.

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