Lecture at University of Central Asia focuses on Higher Education and Science Reform: A Kazakhstan Perspective

October 15, 2015, 06:00

On 9 October 2015, the University of Central Asia hosted a public lecture on Higher Education and Science Reform in Republic of Kazakhstan: Diverse Trajectories of Developing Partnerships by Dr Aida Sagintayeva, Chief Executive Director, and Dr Murat Orunkhanov, Senior Research Fellow from Nazarbayev University’s Graduate School of Education (NUGSE). The lecture resulted in an animated discussion on higher education, with former President of the Kyrgyz Republic Mrs Roza Otunbayeva playing an active role.


The speakers presented an overview of Kazakhstan’s strategic plan of development towards 2020 including its state education development programme from 2011-2020, articulating the various concrete steps in place to implement institutional reforms. Sagintayeva further discussed how investment in education and human capital development are key to a society’s well-being and progress.


“In Kazakhstan, investments in education have increased to match GDP growth. Two percent of GDP is committed to higher education. There are 125 higher education institutions in the country. Private education is more privileged than public, state or national university education,” said Sagintayeva.


She explained Nazarbayev University is associated with both public and private education. While it delivers a unique curriculum, students graduate with a state diploma.


Sagintayeva added that while investment is important in both public and private education, accreditation is critical for all Universities, “the quality of education should not be evaluated by faculty, but instead by the professional community, and accreditation ensures this. There is an added incentive as Universities need to be accredited to receive state funding.”


Orunkhanov continued the session by describing key educational reforms in Science and how during the Soviet era funding was not channeled to individuals but were block funded. Reform led to a transparent grant funding and appraisal process, where funds were distributed to individual scholars, groups or universities.


“There are five priorities in science development: energy; mineral resources and processing; research in science development; intellectual capacity and fundamental science including literature and mathematics,” he said.


Today, there is a disproportionate preservation of natural science versus social science. “Reforms were initiated from top down, and for these important issues, namely the development of research capacity, we need evidence based recommendations,” noted Orunkhanov.


Dr Aida Sagintayeva was the former Vice-Rector for International Cooperation at the Eurasian National University and has worked on various Ministry of Education and Science projects including steering Kazakhstan’s higher education system towards the European three-tiered degree system.


Dr Murat Orunkhanov focuses on globalisation’s effects on higher education, transformational changes of education and science in the post-Soviet area. He is currently researching the evolution of university governance and institutional autonomy in Kazakhstan. Orunkhanov has held senior educational posts including Vice President of Al-Farabi Kazakh National University and Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Kazakhstan.

University of Central Asia