Tag Archives: Kazakhstan

New article published: The policy challenges of creating a world-class university outside the global ‘core’

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Yup, I am pretty excited about this one

I’m pleased to share the publication of my latest journal article. Out online in the European Journal of Higher Education now (and in print in June), my article is called The policy challenges of creating a world-class university outside the global ‘core’ and takes a fresh look at the now commonplace idea of the world-class university.

I used a case study of recently founded Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan to highlight some of the challenges and opportunities for policymakers and people working/studying at the university arising from this new and in many ways experimental project.

You can download the article in full at: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/BugJKtrEFRnhfJpkeDya/full, and the abstract is below.

Abstract

Although the idea of the world-class university is not a new one, it has become increasingly commonplace in public policies around the globe, also gaining traction in states outside the global ‘core’. Kazakhstan, the only Central Asian member of the European Higher Education Area, is no exception as it too aspires to have a world-class university. This paper examines the policies of the Kazakhstani government towards a recently founded institution, Nazarbayev University, as it seeks to position Kazakhstan as a credible global knowledge economy, but also use the university as a means of fulfilling domestic nation-building objectives. Addressing the policy challenges of creating a world-class university in this particular Central Asian context, the paper contributes to a reshaping of our understanding of how certain states currently outside the global ‘core’ are using higher education as a neoliberal development strategy. This paper offers the prospect that there might not just be multiple paths to the creation of a world-class university, but also multiple interpretations of what it means to be a world-class university.

 

 

New research from Central Asian university students

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relevant-to-my-interestsIntrigued by reforms to education in Kazakhstan, from the new trilingual education policy to greater steps towards decentralization of governance?

Want to know what students at a new Kazakh university think about life on campus or the effectiveness of their institution’s strategic plan?

Curious to learn more about students’ views on learning methods, from videoessays to critical thinking skills?

I thought so.

You need to subscribe to a great blog run by students at Kazakhstan’s Nazarbayev University, which has published posts on all these themes and much more. Stories are short, evidence-based and offer some great insights into two areas.

Firstly, there are articles that enhance empirical understanding of education at all levels, with a particular focus on the Kazakh situation. Secondly, the blog offers some interesting insights into the contemporary Central Asian student experience by allowing students to choose (within a framework) what they are writing about, how they express themselves, and how their articles are received and discussed by others.

Holiday viewing: Universities in Soviet Kazakhstan

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Every now and again, I treat you (well, really this is as much for my own benefit) to a visual offering on this blog. In previous years, we’ve had early Soviet era Central Asia posters, a tour of Bishkek’s universities and a selection of Christmas trees for the Tajik school and university students who were banned from putting up Christmas trees for the festive season in 2015.

For the winter holidays this year, I offer you another sojourn into the recent history of Central Asia with a series of images of Kazakhstan’s universities from the Almaty City State Archives. This photo story is from Kazakh news agency BNews by journalist Aigul Mukhambetova. The story is in Russian and I’ve given an informal English translation below.

On the subject of university history and the importance of place (but not on Central Asia), you might also be interested in a recent article I’ve had published in the Canadian journal Comparative & International Education on the connections between universities’ foundations and their current levels of engagement with their local communities.

So – happy viewing and happy reading, but most of all happy holidays. May peace, reason and expertise reign in 2017 for everyone in the world.

Какими были крупнейшие вузы страны в годы их становления (ФОТО)

Which were the country’s best universities during its founding years?

ФОТО: предоставил Госархив г. Алматы
Photos provided by Almaty City State Archive

В современном Казахстане огромную роль играют высшие учебные заведения, которые за годы независимости выпустили сотни тысяч высококвалифицированных специалистов. Однако их история началась еще в довоенный период. Редакция BNews.kz предлагает провести небольшой экскурс в первые годы становления нескольких алматинских  вузов.

In contemporary Kazakhstan, higher education institutions play an important role, and since independence in 1991, hundreds of thousands of highly qualified specialists have graduated. Yet the institutions’ histories started even before the Second World War. The BNews.kz team invite you on a small excursion into the first years of some of Almaty’s universities.

КазНУ им. аль-Фараби // Al-Farabi Kazakh National University


Казахский национальный университет им. аль-Фараби был основан в 1934 году.  Тогда университету было присвоено имя С.М. Кирова. В становлении университета оказали помощь вузы Москвы, Ленинграда, Казани, Украины.

Al-Farabi Kazakh National University was founded in 1934. At that time, it was named after Sergei Kirov [Russian Communist leader assassinated also in 1934, possibly at Stalin’s (indirect) order]. Universities in Moscow, Leningrad [St Petersburg], Kazan and Ukraine provided support to the foundation of the Kazakh National University.

Во время становления университета в  КазГУ работали известные ученые и общественные деятели. В первый год существования вуза работали два факультета, когда сейчас студентов обучают по 80 с лишним специальностям на 14 факультетах.

At the time it was founded, well-known scholars and public figures worked at Kazakh State University. In its first year, there were two faculties. Today, students can study for one of around 80 degrees in 14  faculties.

Сегодня КазНУ успешно сотрудничает более чем с 400 крупнейшими университетами из 25 стран мира. В  2015 году вуз вошел в топ-300, заняв 275 место среди 800 лучших мировых университетов.

Today, Kazakh National University successfully cooperates with more than 400 excellent universities in 25 countries. In 2015 it joined the top 300 universities, taking 275th place amongst the world’s best 800 universities.

КазНАИ им. Т.К. Жургенова // T. K. Zhurgenov Kazakh National Academy of Arts

История КазНАИ им. Т.К. Жургенова начинается с 1955 года. В институте искусств им. Курмангазы (ныне Консерватории) был открыт театральный факультет.

The history of the T. K. Zhurgenov Kazakh National Academy of Arts started in 1955 when a theatre faculty was opened at the Kurmangazy Institute (now Conservatory) of Arts.

В 1977 году на его базе был создан алматинский государственный театрально-художественный институт. Сегодня в академии функционируют 6 факультетов: театральное искусство, кино и ТВ, хореография, живопись, скульптура и дизайн, искусствоведение и музыкальное искусство.

Сегодня в вузе подготовку специалистов осуществляют 23 кафедры, из которых 17 являются выпускающими и 6 общеакадемическими.  

In 1977, the Almaty State Theatre Institute was founded on the Academy’s site. Today, there are six faculties: theatre, cinema and TV, choreography, drawing, sculpture and design, art history, and music. Today the Academy prepares students in 23 departments.

КазНПУ им. Абая // Abai Kazakh National Pedagogical University

Казахский национальный педагогический университет имени Абая основан в 1928 году.

Сегодня это крупнейший и ведущий университет Казахстана, один из центров отечественной педагогической науки и культуры. Университет сейчас занимает достойное место среди 10 лучших университетов республики и первое – в рейтинге педагогических.

Abai Kazakh National Pedagogical University was founded in 1928.

Today it is one of Kazakhstan’s leading universities and a centre for national pedagogical science and culture. The university is ranked amongst the top 10 in the country and the first for pedagogical studies. 

КазНПУ им. Абая включает 11 факультетов, институт магистратуры и докторантуры PhD, 10 научно-исследовательских институтов и центров, лаборатории и более 64 кафедры. В университете обучается  свыше 11 тысяч  будущих специалистов по 55 специальностям бакалавриата, 46 специальностям магистратуры и 16 специальностям докторантуры PhD.

Abai Kazakh National Pedagogical University has 11 faculties, an institute for Master’s and PhD students, 10 research institutes and centres, laboratories and more than 64 departments. More than 11,000 future specialists study at the university for over 55 undergraduate degrees, 46 Master’s degrees and 16 PhD degree subjects. 

КазНМУ им. С. Д. Асфендиярова // S. D. Asfendiyarov Kazakh National Medical University


Решение об открытии медицинского института в Алма-Ате было принято в 1930 году. Штат института в 1931 году включал 5 профессоров, 4 доцента, 13 ассистентов и 2 преподавателя.

The decision to open a medical institute in Alma-Ata (Almaty’s previous name) was taken in 1930. the institute opened in 1931 with five professors, four assistant professors, 13 assistants and two teachers.


За годы войны институт окончили около 2000 врачей, 75% выпускников были направлены на фронт. Бессмертный подвиг во имя свободы Родины совершили на фронте воспитанники медицинского института – Маншук Маметова и Владимир Иванилов, которым посмертно были присвоены звания Героя Советского Союза. Они навечно зачислены студентами медицинского университета.

Сегодня в КазНМУ им. С.Д. Асфендиярова работают известные ученые-педагоги Казахстана, академики Национальной академии наук РК, Российской академии медицинских наук, Академии профилактической медицины РК, Международных академий, заслуженные деятели науки и образования, заслуженные врачи и фармацевты.

During World War Two, around 2,000 doctors graduated, of whom 75% were sent to the front. Two Medical Institute graduates, Manshuk Mametov and Vladimir Ivanilov, were recognized posthumously with Hero of the Soviet Union status for their heroic efforts in the name of freedom for the Motherland. They have been marked for eternity a students of the medical university.

These days, well-known Kazakh science teachers, members of the Kazakhstan National Academy of Science, the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, the Kazkhstan Academy of Preventative Medicine, International academies, recipients of national science/education awards and honoured doctors and pharmacists all work at the S. D. Asfendiyarov Kazakh National Medical University,

КазНТУ им. К.И. Сатпаева // K. I. Satpaev Kazakh National Technical University


История казахского национального технического университета им. К.И.Сатпаева — флагмана инженерного образования республики берет начало в 1934 году. Тогда вуз назывался   Казахский горно-металлургический институт.

K. I. Satpaev Kazakh National Technical University is a leading provider of engineering education and was founded in 1934. At that time it was called the Kazakh Mining and Metallurgy Institute.

В 1999 г. за особые заслуги в подготовке инженерно-технических кадров страны постановлением Правительства Республики Казахстан КазНТУ присвоено имя выдающегося ученого, академика Каныша Имантаевича Сатпаева. КазНТУ сегодня – это 11 профильных институтов и 54 кафедры, где преподают и ведут научные исследования около 200 докторов и более 500 кандидатов наук.

In 1999 the university was given the name of academic Kanish Imanatevich Satpaev by government decree in recognition of its important role in the training of engineering and technical graduates. Today the university has 11 institutes and 54 departments, where teaching and research is undertaken by around 200 PhDs and more than 500 Candidates of Science.

Is President Nazarbayev legacy building?

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Better than a cat meme… A recently unveiled bronze monument of Nursultan Nazarbayev in Taldykorgan, south-eastern Kazakhstan

There have been a spate of stories recently about Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev that suggest a new stage in his quarter century long leadership of the nation. This stage consists of the development of a legacy that seeks to frame Nazarbayev as if being written for future history textbooks.

He has already taken on the mantle of Leader of the Nation (2010) after apparently relenting to pressure from parliament, has had the country’s vastly funded and international prestige-seeking university named after him (2010), and more recently has sought to quash rumours that he seeks to have the capital city named after him. Take a look at the US Washington Post’s story “What do you give the autocrat who has everything?” from November 2016 for a tongue in cheek retelling of the latter story.

Although such tendencies are often associated with the notion of the autocratic or authoritarian regime, as the American article noted above demonstrates, recent comments by Nazarbayev suggest that he is seeking to mould an image of himself that turns the tables on these well-worn and Western-centric tropes.

In a recent televised documentary about the past 25 years, Nazarbayev said:

We get called a “dictatorial” country, or moreover “autocratic.” This is nonsense. This is told by those who know nothing of our way of lives… the way we rule today is normal for our country

(Source: http://akipress.com/news:586373/, 12 December 2016)

Further, in an interview with Bloomberg Press last month [ru], Nazarbayev reminded readers that:

The desire of western countries to make Kazakhstan into an American-style democracy is completely unsustainable

This is not to say that Nazarbayev is against political change: in both sources I mention, he talks about the long-term nature of a shift in ideology. He mentions steps taken by Kazakhstan on this path, such as freedom of religion and language.

Despite these proclamations, US-based scholar Mariya Omelicheva suggests that this is more a quest for legitimacy building than for creating a legacy based on genuine change. Her recent study compares Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, noting that presidential speeches by Nazarbayev and his recently deceased Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov share similarities in that

The leadership of these states have been determined to maintain power under the guise of democracy without exposing themselves to the political risks of competition… They have every single formal democratic institution, but they strip them of their democratic essence.

In relation to what the leaders have promised to the people on the terms they define, progress is considerable. But as we are seeing around the world, not just in Central Asia, “rhetoric is manipulative” (Omelicheva).

To answer the question this blog poses – is Nazarbayev legacy building? – I think there is evidence that, at least through the official discourse, there is a trend in this direction. Yet what Omelicheva’s piece reminds us is that discourse and rhetoric are one thing, whereas genuine change in a political system is quite another. In this, legitimacy trumps legacy.

Corruption corrupted in Kazakhstan

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Cash for university and school places? This cat’s ready to pay.

Kazakh civil servant Almat Yermagambetov wins this week’s prize for bare faced deception.

Yermagambetov handed over to the police a woman who falsely claimed she could obtain admission at Nazarbayev University and a place at a top school in return for a large amount of cash – $20,000 US to be exact. This sounds great for moves towards transparency in a country that despite significant reform still struggles to eliminate corruption.

The plot thickens, though, not when you learn that the accused flatly denies any allegation of wrong doing – but when you find out that the person who paid out the not-to-be-sniffed-at sum of $20,000 to buy admission places for his children is Yermagambetov himself. Yes, the very same civil servant who brought the corruption to light. And, yes, as the 100+ comments on the original article also note, the very same civil servant who does not appear to be facing any charges for his own highly corrupt behaviour.

You couldn’t make it up.

Thanks to news portal Nur.kz for the story – https://www.nur.kz/1319394-chinovnik-otdal-moshennice-20-tys-dlya-zach.html [ru]

I’d close some universities if I could – Kazakh Ambassador to Canada

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Panellists at the “Kazakhstan After 25 Years” roundtable at University of Toronto, November 2016

The number of higher education institutions in Kazakhstan – a country with a population of 17 million – rocketed up from 55 in 1991 to a peak of 182 just a decade later. Many of these were very small institutes, privately run and focussed on teaching. A number of these naturally fell away in the subsequent years, but there were still a whopping 126 higher education institutions in operation in 2015 – one for every 135,000 people! Since 2012, the government has been taking measures to optimize both the quantity and quality of higher education [ru] in Kazakhstan as I showed in a blog post from 2013, The state of higher education in Kazakhstan:

EurasiaNet.org: Kazakhstan has almost 150 higher education institutions for a population of about 17 million… How is Kazakhstan trying to change this perception that there are too many degrees being awarded, but not the labor market to support the thousands of yearly graduates?

Dr. Mukash Burkitbayev, Vice Rector of Al-Farabi Kazakh National University [my emphasis]: You’re right, there are so many universities for a [population] of 15 million. It is too much. Our minister of education understands this situation and now they are making a special policy. They make more requirements for the universities for the scientific material base, for quality of the staff. If the universities do not meet with such requirements such kind of a university will be closed or it will [be joined with another]. This is the main activity of ministry of education. And life demonstrates it, which university should be top; which university should be closed…

The quality of higher education remains a hot topic in Kazakhstan, so it was little wonder that the Kazakh Ambassador to Canada, Konstantin Zhigalov, expressed his views on this issue at a public roundtable on Kazakhstan’s achievements, missed opportunities, and future prospects over the last 25 years hosted at the University of Toronto this month.

Higher education has been a priority of the Kazakh state since becoming independent in 1991. A flagship programme, the Bolashak Scholarships [ru], have sent 12,000 Kazakhs to study abroad since its inception in 1993. The word Bolashak means Future in English – an apt reminder of the power of education to drive a country forward. As the situation within Kazakhstan has stabilized and with the emergence of a distinct middle class, another flagship programme, Nazarbayev University, is on the rise. Both initiatives are designed to nurture the academic elite and offer generous financial support to the brightest students to pursue cost-free higher education in a top quality setting.

These two grand projects seem to get much of the (still sadly limited) international attention paid to Kazakhstan’s higher education system, which drove me to ask the Ambassador about the challenges for the rest of the system. What are the opportunities for the majority of students who won’t get a Bolashak scholarship or entry to Nazarbayev University?

And that’s where Ambassador Zhigalov talked about the importance of raising quality across the board. This means continuing to close down institutions that are not meeting the government’s requirements and creating mergers between institutions. Beyond this, measures are being taken to reform the system in line with international norms such as the Bologna Process, engender competition through developing a national rankings system, endeavouring to place two universities amongst the world’s best, enhancing accreditation systems, and continuing the drive towards “modernization” which has been a watch word in national strategies for many years.

These are challenging targets, but the consistent efforts towards achieving these reforms are clear and commendable. Whether or not you agree with the direction of travel, it is hard to disagree that the higher education system in Kazakhstan is on the journey of its life.

 

A new phase for Central Asian higher education begins

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After many years in the pipeline (just do a quick search on my blog if you want to check the archives!), the University of Central Asia (UCA) has today welcomed its very first undergraduate students. True, they are a select few: just 71 students selected from the three UCA countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan, and it’s also true that just one of the three envisaged campuses is up and running… but nonetheless, this is quite some achievement. Creating any new organisation is a challenge, but UCA has deliberately added to the complexity by working over three countries and physically building campuses in somewhat remote mountainous areas of those countries.

The university also grapples with other challenges such as dealing with endemic corruption in the region, raising awareness of and interest in an American style English-language education, proving that a good higher education can be obtained at home as well as abroad and more. Some of these issues are not specific to UCA but are issues all institutions in the region must deal with. Having worked for UCA (in a different guise) nearly 15 years ago when it was in the early stages of development, I sense that some of the great creativity and genuine innovation in earlier versions of the undergraduate curriculum have been lost or overtaken by other ideas and needs. Time will tell how the UCA offering is received and whether the concept will catch on.

For today, though, I would simply like to pass my congratulations to everyone involved in the grand UCA project, and to wish the students, staff and faculty all the very best of luck. An exciting adventure awaits!

The ironic fate of Soviet nostalgia

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Poster for the Soviet classic, “The irony of fate”, where the big joke is that all cities share the same street names

If you’re feeling nostalgic for the Soviet Union, for the days of free education, jobs for life, and street names that were the same in every city, then it seems you’re not alone.

Sputnik News today reports the results of a poll of over 12,000 people across 11 countries of the former Soviet Union who were asked whether life was better in the USSR than after it collapsed in 1991. On average, over 50% of those aged 35-64 agree that life was better before. This compares to an average of just under 30% of those aged 18-24 who felt the same – though how they might know this without having been born during the Soviet Union escapes me.

The breakdown of the results by country is interesting, particularly looking at unlikely outliers Uzbekistan and Moldova. In Uzbekistan, apparently almost no one misses the good old days, in stark contrast to its extremely economically successful neighbour Kazakhstan. Kyrgyzstan purports to have similar levels of nostalgia as Kazakhstan, despite enjoying a reputation as “Central Asia’s most stable state”. I’m not saying that political and economic success/stability as an independent country necessarily affects results, but I do feel surprised by the lukewarm response from older Tajiks based on my own extensive research and contacts in the country.

Comments on the Sputnik News website express a similar range of confusion and scepticism. Indeed, Sputnik News – a Russian government spin-off – is regularly accused of spouting Russian-friendly propaganda. Certainly, the way the statement is worded is highly subjective: why not flip the question and ask whether life is better now than it was during the Soviet Union? And why are the voices of those who weren’t even born when the Soviet Union collapsed given equal weight to those who lived a good part of their life with a different passport – and where are the over 65s?

Revitalizing the idea that times were better in the old days is not new – just look at the ongoing “ostalgie” stories about East Germany. If you have the time to explore this further, I strongly recommend Alexei Yurchak’s absolutely beautifully named 2005 book, Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More. It focusses on the 1960s-1980s, the many paradoxes of Soviet life and telling the story of the last Soviet generation – the very same people who now seem to be so nostalgic…

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(c) Sputnik News, August 17 2016

 

Gender gaps in higher education across Central Asia

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After a recent blog post I published on Women in higher education in Central Asia, I was approached by University World News to write more about why it is that some women in Central Asia – particularly those in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – are doing so much better (better even than the world average) in getting to university than their counterparts in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

This led to some fascinating further research trying to understand more about this conundrum.

I am hugely grateful to Aksana Ismailbekova, Albina Yun and another researcher who chose to remain anonymous for their expert insights and support for this article, which I am delighted to say has now been published:

http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20160707140807406

I would love to get your comments on this important issue, and ideas / practices from elsewhere in the world that might support greater gender equality in the parts of Central Asia where opportunities to enter higher education are not (yet) as accessible for women.

Higher education in the high mountains of Central Asia

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Regular blog readers will know that I am passionate about higher education and about Central Asia. You may also know that I have been following the trajectory of some of the region’s newest institutions with great interest, in order to better understand the motivations behind the creation of these universities and to observe what these institutions mean for the people who are directly affected by them (through being students, faculty or staff there) or those with more indirect connections (local communities, employers, families of students etc). How do these universities change the societies around them? How do the societies around them change the institutions?

One project I have a particular attachment to is the University of Central Asia (UCA), which I first learned about in the early 2000s when I worked in Tajikistan for a path-breaking project that has now become linked to UCA. After an arduous journey – which is still only just beginning – UCA will admit its very first undergraduate students this autumn/fall and the buzz around it is steadily growing. The idea behind the university is to bring high quality higher education to three remote and mountainous regions in three countries of Central Asia: Tekeli in Kazakhstan, Naryn in Kyrgyzstan, and Khorog in Tajikistan. Whilst the mountains tell much of the story, there is also an undercurrent of social and economic justice: this is also about bringing three diverse but neighbouring states together and about creating opportunities for these regions and the states they are in to prosper in the 21st century.

In this post I would like to share a recent lecture by Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, UCA Board Executive Committee Executive Chair, given in London to share the university’s vision. The webcast of the lecture is below. If you enjoy that (or don’t have time to watch it in full), take a look at this 5 minute BBC news story and UCA’s photo reportage of the lecture.

We need to find opportunities, and that comes out of the intellectual application of minds, creating research and fostering socio-economic development of Central Asia’s mountain based societies, and helping societies preserve and draw upon their rich cultural heritage.

Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, May 2016