Student recruitment in Central Asia

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When you think of university outreach/access projects in Central Asia, you tend to think of initiatives by universities in richer countries in Europe or East/South East Asia to recruit students to study in those richer countries. More successful and popular efforts tend to be underwritten by the offer to fund the study through a scholarship. I would contend that universities in Germany, Malaysia and Singapore have been particularly effective in raising awareness of provision in their countries; see e.g. my June 2014 post on Malaysian Limkokwing University.

This post is also a good example of the growth of a different trend, namely transnational education. This is where a university establishes a branch campus in another country so that students can study for a degree from that university without leaving their home country. The UK’s Times Higher Education had a good story on the expansion of transnational education from a UK perspective a year ago.

Within Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan has been the biggest importer of international students, educating nearly half (40%) of all international students coming to the region. As well as other Central Asians, countries in South Asia such as India and Pakistan are also providers of students coming to Kyrgyz universities, where they can get a reasonable quality degree, often in English, at a much more reasonable cost than countries further afield. Bishkek-based American University of Central Asia, which teaches in English, has official recruiting agents as far afield as South Korea and Ukraine in addition to Central and South Asian countries.

But now, is Kazakhstan now looking to compete? A recent article in the Tajik media suggests that universities in this regional economic powerhouse are stepping up their activities within Central Asia, with the forthcoming visit of representatives from Astana-based Nazarbayev University to Tajikistan later this month. Apparently there are just two Tajik students studying at Nazarbayev University at the moment, an institution that in 2013 the US State Department called ‘a model in the region for educating global citizens in an increasingly interconnected world economy.’ Nazarbayev University has a clear model for bringing the best of the world to Kazakhstan through, for example, its recruitment of internationally faculty and partnerships with top ranking global universities. Alongside this strategy, the university – and others in Kazakhstan – would be strongly advised to develop and maintain a strong regional strategy to recruit high quality Central Asian students and equip them with the knowledge and skills that will enable them to build better regional cooperation.

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