Today’s post picks up on a recent report by Yojana Sharma in University World News on a new alliance set up in China to bring together universities along the Silk Road, that ancient trading route linking China to Europe. In fact, the exact geography of ‘Silk Road’ is very broadly interpreted for this new grouping, bringing together as it does universities as far from the original Silk Road as Finland and Australia. That’s probably why it’s called the alliance of the New Silk Road!
The alliance is likely to be of strong interest to universities in Central Asia, and indeed the proposal to create a New Silk Road Economic Belt, which this universities alliance is connected to, was first publicly made by China’s President in Kazakhstan in 2013.
The title for the post is taken from the official invitation to attend the launch of the alliance at Xi’an Jiantong University in Shanghai this May. The invite says:
The New Silk Road is laden with hopes and dreams. It is a win-win road with friendship and prosperity. We extend a warm invitation to Xi’an at the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, to endorse UANSR [Universities Alliance of the New Silk Raod] and most importantly promote the higher education, and make a difference in the traditions and innovations in the civilization.
Lofty ambitions, and it strikes me that this is a model for partnership that is worth monitoring closely to fully understand the impact it will have on Central Asian universities and even regional politics.
Malaysian Limkokwing University has committed to opening a campus in Tajikistan, a not unexpected move by this ambitious and globally facing technical/creative university, which I first investigated in 2011.
The announcement was made during President Rahmon’s visit to Malaysia earlier this week. In the press release on the President’s website [ru], it is noted that there are ‘only’ around 40 Tajik students studying at Limkokwing (at its main campus in Malaysia) and around 200 Tajik students studying across that country. Presumably the aim now is to encourage more Tajik students to experience a Limkokwing education without leaving Tajikistan, a trend that has been growing around the world and particularly in the Middle East and some African countries (Mauritius seems to be a popular destinations for UK universities setting up overseas).
I think this is a great move both for Tajikistan and for Limkokwing. Tajikistan brings its first major overseas branch campus to the country (not counting the Moscow State University branch that opened a few years ago; using the wonderfully Soviet concepts of ‘near abroad’ and ‘far abroad’, I’m referring now to developments with the ‘far abroad’) and assurances that this will be an opportunity to develop home-grown talent and not to import the so-called ‘fly in-fly out’ lecturers who come from outside the country to teach a class and then leave again. According to trusted Tajik news agency Asia Plus’ story on the new campus, 80% of the teaching staff will be Tajik. In addition, there will be a quota of places for Tajik students, who will also benefit from tuition fee reductions.
What’s in it for Limkokwing, you might ask? This will be its first full foray into Central Asia and will add to established branch campuses in Asia, Africa and the UK as well as partnerships around the world (see www.limkokwing.net/malaysia/about for more). I expect that the academic offering of creative and technical courses geared towards getting graduates ‘job ready’ will be popular not just amongst Tajik students but with students from other Central and South Asian countries and with employers too. It’s a great foothold into a market (inasmuch as we can call it a ‘market’) with great potential (e.g. to increase participation in higher education, to fill the gap left by students who leave the country for study) and I am really pleased to see the Tajik government ostensibly being so welcoming and forward facing towards this relationship. And I’m sure it helped seal the deal for President Rahmon to be awarded an honorary professorship at Limkokwing out of it too.
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My new article ‘From wandering scholars to strategic partnerships: the experience of British universities in Central Asia‘ is out this week in new publication Perspectives on Central Asia. Published by Eurasian Dialogue, Perspectives is ‘a quarterly bulletin dealing with the many aspects of life in Central Asia. This innovative publication provides Central Asia specialists and enthusiasts with perspectives on the region from an array of different academic disciplines.’
Here’s the abstract of my article:
‘Universities around the world are increasingly seeking to establish partnerships with higher education institutions in Central Asia. This article, written by a British higher education practitioner, builds on the author’s research into higher education in the UK and in Central Asia by exploring some of the key benefits and drawbacks of such partnerships from the perspective of British universities. An exclusive interview undertaken with the Registrar of Nottingham University offers a more detailed view of how one British university, which, although not operating directly in Central Asia, has engaged extensively with universities in other parts of Asia.’
The issue is available to download here: Perspectives_on_Central_Asia_nr4-ESpp11-15 or at http://eurasiandialogue.org/downloads/Perspectives_on_Central_Asia_nr4.pdf; my article is on pages 11-15.
The Korea Times this week reported on an initiative by the country’s new Uzbek Ambassador to encourage Korean universities to open branch campuses in Uzbekistan. This is an interesting initiative, both in that it’s being initiated by Uzbekistan – not known for its openness to the world – and as a demonstration that university partnerships don’t always go from west to east or north to south. Article below is (c) Korea Times, 10.01.14.
New Uzbek envoy invites Korean universities
Uzbek Ambassador Alisher Kurmanov, left, talks with Park Moo-jong, president of The Korea Times, during his courtesy visit at the latter’s office in Seoul, Friday. / Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul
By Kang Hyun-kyung
A new Uzbekistan ambassador to Korea said Friday that he is talking with several Korean universities heads to encourage them to open up a branch campus in his country.
“My government is now placing a special focus on the information technology sector,” Ambassador Alisher Kurmanov said during a courtesy visit to Park Moo-jong, president and publisher of The Korea Times.
“One of my first tasks will be opening up a branch of one of the Korean universities in Uzbekistan. For us, knowledge is important. Currently, six foreign universities are operating in Uzbekistan and one of them is from Singapore, of which I moved the campus project forward when I served as ambassador to that country.”
Korea is Kurmanov’s second foreign posting as ambassador. He opened up the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Singapore in 2007.
The new ambassador is optimistic about Korea-Uzbekistan relations under the Park Geun-hye government, predicting they will continue to grow deeper and closer.
Kurmanov expressed hope that President Park will visit his country this year.
“Our Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov, who visited Korea in December, passed the invitation on to President Park on behalf of our leader. And President Park promised to try to visit Uzbekistan,” he said.
He said lots of activities are going on between the two countries.
“Now we have deputy minister of the IT industry who is a Korean. He is overseeing the whole government initiative. We also have a vice rector of our IT university in Uzbekistan. He is from Korea and was sent to our country,” he said.
Kurmanov replaced Vitaliy Fen, who had worked in Seoul for 18 years.
President Park encouraged the new envoy to play a significant role in promoting Uzbek culture in Korea to help Koreans have a better understanding of the country.