This year marks one decade since the establishment of Nazarbayev University – an initiative of the First President of Kazakhstan N. Nazarbayev. Since its founding, the university has been part of a large-scale program for the reform of higher education in Kazakhstan. The university’s operation is guided by international best practices, introducing modern forms of university management and testing innovative educational programs and projects, and subsequently translating these experiences to be shared with the country’s higher education system.
One of the strategic priorities of the country is to integrate the Kazakhstani educational system into the global educational sphere and increase the competitiveness of the nation’s universities. To this end, the National Plan “100 Concrete Steps on Implementation of Five Institutional Reforms” envisages a phased expansion of the academic and managerial independence of universities, taking the experience of Nazarbayev University into account. The need to develop the principles of academic honesty and research ethics at the universities of Kazakhstan based on the experience of NU is reflected in the State Program of Education and Science Development for 2016-2019 and the recently approved new program of SPESD until 2025.
Today we can already talk about several positive changes that are taking place in the system of higher education in Kazakhstan. In July 2018, experts from Nazarbayev University helped take part in the development of a law that was adopted to expand the academic and managerial independence of universities. Today, most national and state universities have supervisory boards; the appointment of rectors of state universities is through an open competition; expanded academic independence of universities in determining the content of educational programs; reorganization of four national and six state universities in the form of Non-profitable joint-stock companies. Work is underway to reorganize another 25 state universities.
Nazarbayev University is actively cooperating with both the Republic of Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Education and Science, as well as, other universities as part of this sharing the experience. The University is represented on the Public Council for Education and Science, Protection of Children’s Rights of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and took part in the development of 10 educational programs in English for technical universities in Kazakhstan. Since 2013, the Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Education has provided continuing educational courses for more than 300 top managers of national and state universities on the management of the complex process of transformation in higher education organized. In 2016-2017, a three-month advanced training and retraining course was organized for the heads of medical universities.
Every year, Nazarbayev University holds the Eurasian Higher Education Leaders Forum, which discusses the urgent problems of the development of higher education, holds seminars, master classes, and exchange of views among experts in the field of higher education. The first Forum was held in 2011. Last year, it gathered more than 400 participants. Within the framework of the Forum, sessions on sharing the experience are organized. In 2019, about 150 representatives of universities in Kazakhstan and Central Asia took part in them. In past years, the Forum’s sessions have focused on academic activities, science and innovation, and university management.
Nazarbayev University believes that promoting a culture of academic honesty is one of the basic principles of the educational process. So, since 2016, together with the KAZGUU University, an annual conference on academic honesty in higher education in Kazakhstan has been held.
Over the past year, over 100 universities (78% of the country’s universities) have been involved in the sharing of the NU experience. NU has not only helped to develop roadmaps for translating the experience, but has also helped organize scientific internships providing the opportunity to work in modern university laboratories. The University regularly holds specialized trainings, workshops, webinars, and courses for participants within the country and region on such topics as: library science and instructional technologies, registrar office systems and processes, academic program development, effectively using institutional studies and research (by the Provost Office), Career and Advising (by NU CAC), education leadership, and research methods.
Nazarbayev University seeks to play an active role in the development of science, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Every year, the NU Business Incubator provides support to young entrepreneurs in Kazakhstan for developing their startup projects. The “Tech Central Asia” acceleration program was launched by the NU Business Accelerator, in partnership with the US Embassy in the Republic of Kazakhstan. The Commercialization Office, together with the National Institute of Intellectual Property, conducts trainings and seminars on the protection of intellectual property for regional universities. The NU Collaborative Research Program was launched to stimulate joint research and increase the potential of Kazakhstani science. In 2019, this program funded 21 projects from 11 Kazakhstani universities.
Thanks to the initiative of Nazarbayev University, various professional associations were created such as the Association of Libraries of Higher Educational Institutions of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kazakhstan Educational Research Association, and the Association of Kazakh Language Teachers. Currently, there is a plan to create the Kazakhstan Association of Academic Registrars.
In general, the University remains committed to and excited about providing programs and support for translating and sharing the experience. The word exchange implies movement in more than one direction – NU hopes to be one node in a network of mutual and equivalent exchange, where ideas, experience and best practices can flourish.