ISET was founded in 2006 by a consortium of international donors and governments formed in response to a letter by the late Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania – just three weeks before his tragic death – to the World Bank President James Wolfensohn, in which he appealed for help in "creating Georgia's own capability to train young economists in modern economics as it is taught all over the world."
Initial input from the World Bank, the Governments of Georgia and Germany, as
well as ongoing support of Tbilisi State University and international donors, including BP, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Open Society Institute Higher Education Support Program, and the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), have made Zhvania's dream a reality. In October 2006, the International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University (ISET) opened its doors to Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani students seeking to obtain world class economics education.
|The World Bank played a vital catalytic role in founding the donor consortium behind ISET (Partnership for Economics Education and Research Inc.), designing its educational model, putting together its governing and advisory boards, hiring key staff, and providing seed funding for ISET’s research activities in the first two years of its operation. ISET has been designated the WB’s public information center in Georgia. ISET is regularly participating in WB-financed projects and consultations. Roy Southworth, the World Bank’s country director for Georgia in 2003-2008, joined ISET’s board in 2009 and served as its chair until January 2016.|
|The Government of Georgia provided ISET with a building (2,200 m2) in downtown Tbilisi’s Vera district, which formerly housed the Soviet Economic Planning Institute. The Georgian government remains an important ISET stakeholder. It has one seat on ISET’s governing board (currently occupied by the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic and Sustainable Development, Dimitri Kumsishvili).|
|The Government of Germany assisted in the creation of ISET by agreeing to forgive Georgia about $1mln in debt in order to finance the renovation and refurbishment of ISET’s building on Zandukeli 16. ISET maintains close ties with Germany’s development arm – GIZ, which supported a number of projects implemented by the ISET Policy Institute since 2011.|
|The Swedish Agency for Development Cooperation (Sida) is the single largest ISET donor to date. Sida has been supporting ISET since inception in 2005, providing a total for more than $5mln in core funding. In 2006-2015, Sida’s support targeted ISET’s educational activities, helping lay the foundations of ISET academic programs. Awarded in 2015, Sida’s most recent multi-year grant of about $2.5mln seeks to develop the ISET Policy as a leading economic policy think tank in the South Caucasus region. Importantly, ISET’s partnership with Sweden goes well beyond financial support. In particular, ISET is a member in the regional network of research institutes coordinated by the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics at the Stockholm School of Economics and is regularly participating in SITE-led regional conferences, research projects, student and faculty exchanges.|
|BP is the second largest ISET donor to date with a total contribution of almost $3mln, and the only private sector member in the PEER consortium. BP joined the effort at inception, in 2005, and stayed on board until 2013. BP’s General Manager, Chris Schlueter, remains involved in ISET’s activities, teaching business ethics in our Executive Leadership program.|
|The Open Society Foundations supported ISET from inception in 2005, first through its Higher Education Support Program (a total of almost $1mln until 2013) and, since 2011, through its Think Tank Fund (TTF). TTF’s core funding served as a trigger for the establishment, in June 2011, of the ISET Policy Institute. TTF maintains its role as a core donor of ISET-PI, supporting professional capacity building, internationalization and communication activities. Bill Newton Smith, the chair of HESP/OSI board, chaired ISET’s governing board during the first five years of its existence, until 2009.|
|The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the fourth founding member of the PEER consortium. To date, Norway’s total contribution stands at close to $800,000, providing core support and strengthening the teaching of energy and environmental economics in ISET’s MA program. There is a strong academic aspects to ISET’s cooperation with Norway: Norwegian faculty are regularly teaching at ISET. Supported by the Norwegian Academic Exchange Since 2015, ISET entered into a partnership with the Norwegian School of Economics in Bergen involving student exchanges and cooperation on development research.|
|US Agency for International Development (USAID) has been supporting ISET since 2008. In particular, USAID financed the creation of the energy economics concentration in ISET’s two year economics MA program; USAID’s HICD, HICD+, G-PAC, EPI, and G4G projects supported several research projects and policy consultancies undertaken by the ISET Policy Institute. Most significantly, in 2014-2016, USAID provided direct core funding to establish the Agricultural Policy Research Center (APRC) at the ISET Policy Institute which served as a model for all other centers subsequently established at ISET-PI.|
|Roy Southworth’s family made a generous donation of $400,000 that helped close a critical funding gap emerging in 2013-2014 as a result of three long-term donors simultaneously and unexpectedly discontinuing their support.|