Public Defender Responds to Statement of Technical University
In July 2016, the Public Defender of Georgia held that principal election rules were violated at the Technical University of Georgia, in response to which the Technical University issued a public statement a few days ago. We would like once again to make clear the circumstances which served as grounds for the Public Defender’s recommendation.
Archil Prangishvili was the acting principal at the Technical University in 2008-2009, after which he was elected the principal 3 times - in 2009, 2012 and 2016.
The Public Defender found that the election of Prangishvili for the third term was violation of the Law of Georgia on Higher Education and it restricted the legal rights of other candidates. Consequently, the Public Defender issued a recommendation to the Ministry of Education and Science and to the Chairperson of the Technical University’s Election Commission.
The Ministry did not consider the Public Defender’s recommendation on the motive that Archil Prangishvili was the acting principal for 7 years; he had not been elected for full two consecutive terms (8 years) and therefore, his registration as a candidate for the university principal was not violation of the law. It should be noted that the Ministry is at odds not only with the law, but also with its own argument, as the rector was elected for a 4-year term in 2016; accordingly, after expiration of this term, Prangishvili will have served as principal for more than 11 years.
Paragraph 3 of article 22 of the Law of Georgia on Higher Education clearly defines that the principal of a state-founded higher educational institution should not be elected for more than two consecutive terms, which should not exceed 2 terms of main educational level (8 years). The article prohibits both the sequence and duration of the election, while violation of even one of them is enough for establishing infringement of the law. The aim of the article is to prevent ruling of one and the same person at the university for an unjustifiably long term.
We cannot share the university's argument, according to which, the mentioned issue is beyond the mandate of the Public Defender. The Technical University is an entity of public law. Accordingly, it is an administrative body/public institution and consideration of the legitimacy of its decisions when it limits others’ rights is part of the Public Defender’s mandate. At the same time, the legislation does not prohibit the Public Defender from considering applications/complaints, which are at the same time being reviewed in the court.