Kazakhstan 2017 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | B2B

Universities in Kazakhstan are attracting more and more students from the country and region.

Almagul Kanagatova
Almaty Management University (AlmaU)
Chan Young Bang
KIMEP University

How would you assess the competitiveness of today's education sector in Kazakhstan?

ALMAGUL KANAGATOVA Competition is tough in the education market. Currently, the main players in the Kazakhstani education sector are in a period of transition and need further development and innovation. We cannot work as we did yesterday; it is a different period and there are different values now and different requirements for education. High school graduates have more requirements for university so they expect more today. There are 20 intellectual schools and 30 Kazakh-Turkish schools, and the level of education and preparation of students is extremely high so universities should be prepared for talented undergraduates. Nazarbayev University is an example of a successful university that meets the requirements of high school graduates so all national universities, state universities, and private universities should follow that example. Successful high school graduates should not only dream about getting into Nazarbayev University but should dream about getting into national, state, or private universities.

CHAN YOUNG BANG In relative terms, in the CIS, Kazakhstan is number one. There is no university comparable to KIMEP, even in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Georgia, or Belarus. So in that sense, Kazakhstan is superior in terms of education. However, in absolute terms, there is still a long way to go to become an equivalent of a university in the UK, US, or even other countries like South Korea. The number one problem is that the people who are in charge were educated under the Soviet Union and their inherent way of thinking is more or less comparable to older traditions. KIMEP is different; we want to emulate western systems, where transparency is crucial and decision-making is democratic. The people in charge are accustomed to the Soviet way of management, which means quantitative control from one to 10. When I visit the US, I never even hear about the Ministry of Education; it does not get involved unless to provide a loan.

Another important goal for your university is internationalization. How is that progressing and what is the university doing to further attract international students?

AK We work hard towards improving internationalization. We now have more than 80 students from Central Asian countries like Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, as well as students from Russia, Turkey, France, and Austria. We also work closely with embassies and consulate generals; for example, we expect a number of students from China, Iran, and Azerbaijan as we have agreed with the local diplomatic missions of these countries for them to help promote our university there. Our university also offers scholarships for students from overseas with excellent academic performance. AlmaU provides double degree programs on undergraduate and postgraduate levels with partners from France, Switzerland, South Korea, and Russia. Given that Kazakhstan was included in the Erasmus agreement some time ago, AlmaU has expanded its opportunities for internationalizing its curriculum and student and faculty cohorts. We already have one faculty member from Belgium who arrived last semester to teach and we expect most of our Erasmus+ students and faculty exchange to arrive next year. Next year we expect to have more students and faculty members from France, Bulgaria, Poland, Malaysia and other countries as well. To ensure the internationalization of the study process, AlmaU invites foreign faculty to teach full-time and deliver guest lectures.

Can you tell us about your goal to be among the top-100 universities?

CYB We are currently one of the best universities in the world. Employability is a great way to assess an educational institution. KIMEP students invest USD8,000 a year for four years and that has fallen to USD5,000 due to the tenge depreciation. This means USD20,000 in four years, and the rate of return means they can repay everything in two years. In comparison to Georgetown University, KIMEP University is better because a Georgetown University degree costs around USD50,000 per year, which takes five to seven years to repay. In terms of employability, Georgetown cannot claim 93% but virtually all our students find a job. This is what we consider when assessing a university, including student levels of satisfaction, employer approval ratings, and rates of return. However, there is another aspect of academic institutions: the advancement of knowledge. When we went through our accreditation, an Oxford University professor visited KIMEP and was impressed. In terms of training, our faculty, and students, we are successful; however, in terms of the advancement of knowledge, Oxford is one of the best and we are not there yet. The quality of our research is not comparable to the one at Georgetown University, and this is where our quality has to improve. We have to produce and publish journals to enhance knowledge and contribute to research. We have to study and publish an article about Russia, for example, and other relevant articles. Many articles come from Georgetown, Oxford, and Harvard but there are not many from KIMEP University.