EYE ON THE WORLD

Azerbaijan 2012 | SOCIAL, HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Prof. Dr. Ahliman Amiraslanov, Rector of Azerbaijan Medical University, on reforms to the higher education system and the positive role of international students and exchange programs.

Prof. Dr. Ahliman Amiraslanov
BIOGRAPHY
Born in 1947, Prof. Dr. Ahliman Amiraslanov graduated from Azerbaijan State Medical Institute’s General Medicine Faculty and quickly built up an impressive record in the Azerbaijani medical sector. He is currently the Rector of Azerbaijan Medical University, and has also been an MP since 2010, working on the Social Policy Committee.

What significant reforms have taken place at the university since Azerbaijan gained independence?

Azerbaijan Medical University (AMU) has had a long and very successful history since it was founded in 1930. The adoption of the credit system and the Bologna process are the most important reforms that have taken place at AMU since our country gained independence. It was a big challenge to go from a Soviet education system to the credit system. It is very important to us because it helps to bring international standards to our institution and further integrate it into the international higher education system. Along with the introduction of the credit system, we included postgraduate Master's degree courses in our Pharmacy Faculty in 2009, and residency courses in our General Medicine and Pediatrics faculties in 2011, which train residents from four to six years, depending on the specialty. We must not forget about the national reforms in higher education implemented by the Ministry of Education, because they have contributed to improving the quality of education in Azerbaijan and further raising it to meet European standards.

How is the university working to further integrate itself into the world education system?

AMU has different exchange programs with international institutions; not only at the student level, but specialists and staff as well. We currently have more than 40 partnerships and agreements with international universities. Also, we constantly invite education experts to attract their regulatory expertise to our country, and particularly to our institution. In that regard, the World Bank and the World Health Organization have been supporting us very closely over the years. Extracurricular activities play an important role in the education process, and we can develop them thanks to our international agreements. Also, the integration of IT systems in our programs and examination procedures, which are mostly based on European examination models, has resulted in the increased use of new technologies in our programs.

How can AMU benefit from the changes the Ministry of Education is planning to make to the policy of financing the education of local university graduates overseas?

The Ministry of Education is increasingly encouraging Azerbaijani students to follow their studies abroad, and this is very important not only for them, but for our educational institutions as well. More than 60% of the medical students who go on exchange programs come from our university. The most important thing, however, is to make sure that these students come back to Azerbaijan once they graduate. On our side, we work closely with the Ministry of Education in order to make sure we are ready to attract these students, providing what they professionally need to develop their careers in Azerbaijan. In this regard, we have built a new therapeutic center with 17 departments and 400 beds, and a surgery clinic with 21 departments; extra capacity for 500 patients is also under construction. We provide both clinics with the most modern equipment so that doctors can develop their careers under the best conditions possible.

How has the success of AMU been reflected worldwide?

We like to keep track of our former students and residents, regardless of where they are working right now. An important factor that shows our success, as an educational institution, is the number of specialists who have graduated from AMU, and who are working abroad at the moment. A couple of years ago, coinciding with our 80th anniversary, we counted more than 10,000 specialists from our university working in 28 different countries. However, the number of our alumni spread across the world is growing from year to year. As an example, more than 40 students obtained residency in Germany in 2011. In Saudi Arabia we have more than 300 of our graduates working in different specialties. And in addition, a large number of AMU alumni are successfully working and studying in Turkey and different European countries.