COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest challenge the world is facing nowadays. It has already affected all spheres of human activity. Education has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which made educational institutes in Kazakhstan and worldwide reconsider the teaching process, approaches to student recruitment and admission.
Aizhamal Zhazykpayeva, the Director of the Admissions Department of Nazarbayev University, talked about the changes the student admission and recruitment process had in the context of the emergency and also shared with us preliminary admission results of the current year.
Can you elaborate more on what changes the student admission process has undergone during this challenging time caused by the declared quarantine regime?
The current circumstances made all universities worldwide rethink their traditional approaches to student admission that they have been using for many years. Our University is not an exception. The student admission and teaching process had to continue regardless of the state of emergency and the quarantine. Therefore we had to take immediate and important decisions introducing amendments into the admission rules and admission process observing the core values of the admission process of the University: openness, transparency and integrity.
The Admissions Department is a structural unit which interacts with outside world more than any other department of the University since it works with prospective students, their parents, college counselors, partners, etc. Based on the decision of the leadership of the University to shift to remote work and to limit the spread of the virus by restricting physical interaction the Department shifted to a new mode of work along with all other departments of the University. Consequently all on-campus personal consultations were cancelled. However, the Call-center of the Admissions Department continued providing consultations by telephone and email. The number of queries has significantly increased since the beginning of the quarantine: 3325 emails, 6618 incoming phone calls, 3735 queries through social media and messengers and 7850 queries in CRM-system were registered and processed by the Call-center during that period of time. In order to keep our applicants up-to-date, all news associated with amendments in the admission process was posted on our website, our official pages in social media and sent to applicants/candidates’ emails.
The actual admission rules underwent certain changes at all program levels. As far as it is known, the University follows merit-based admission to its academic programs. This principle implies the selection of applicants/candidates based on their academic achievements only. Thus one of the entry requirements includes taking standardized tests. In response to COVID-19 situation test administrators, including College Board (SAT), British Council (IELTS), ETS (GRE/TOEFL), ACT temporarily cancelled the examinations. In order to ensure the merit-based principle and to provide equal opportunities to our applicants/candidates, the Admissions Committees of the University took several important decisions allowing all applicants/candidates to take part in the competition despite the issue with standardized tests.
Namely within the competition for the 2020-2021 academic year, the Admissions Committee of the Foundation program decided to consider applicants (who are not able to provide IELTS/TOEFL with a minimum passing score) based on their Aptis and NUFYPET tests results. In this regard, the results of the Aptis test were aligned to IELTS results according to the Common European Framework of Reference. NUFYPET scores were also taken into account.
Furthermore, the Admissions Committee of undergraduate programs decided the following within the competition for the 2020-2021 academic year:
1) to conduct ALEKS PPL test for applicants who are not able to provide SAT/ACT certificate with a minimum passing score;
2) to consider the results of Duolingo English Test as an alternative for IELTS/TOEFL taken by applicants independently and submitted to the University by May 31, 2020;
3) to consider IB DP category applicants according to their predicted grades certified by educational institutions, with a minimum total score of at least 33 and at least 5,5,5 in three high-level subjects.
Similarly, the Admissions Committees of Master’s, PhD and residency programs decided to consider candidates for graduate programs, who are not able to provide IELTS/TOEFL with a minimum passing score, based on Duolingo English Test.
All information regarding the abovementioned alternative tests and instructions on how to take them were posted on the website, in social media and sent to applicants/candidates via email.
The final stage of the admission process is the actual enrollment of applicants/candidates, which includes the submission of original documents to the University. This stage had some changes as well. Namely due to current circumstances as a result of COVID-19 pandemic and to limit the spread of the virus by further restricting physical interaction the decision was taken to accept all original documents of our applicants/candidates via courier service only starting from the current year. This is done to protect the lives and health of our applicants/candidates, their parents and other representatives.
Is it mandatory to submit the hard copy of the medical certificate 086/y when applying to NU?
The medical certificate 086/y is one of the mandatory documents to be submitted by applicants/candidates for the enrollment. As far as it is known, it has been promised to accept electronic versions of this certificate during the enrollment to educational institutes in Kazakhstan. According to the Health and Safety Department of Nazarbayev University, the work on implementing the electronic version of the certificate is already in process at the level of the Ministry of Healthcare of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, Nazarbayev University will continue accepting the hard copy of the certificate until the electronic format is completely launched.
How are you implementing the student recruitment and how has it changed in the context of the quarantine?
The format of the recruitment, its resources and tools have remarkably changed as well. Because of the state of emergency and quarantine all admission-related campus visit activities have been suspended until the improvement of the epidemiological situation in the country, including the campus tours, usually provided for our prospective students. Besides, all fairs and recruitment trips were cancelled. However in order to continue informing our applicants/candidates about the academic programs of the University and their entry requirements we developed an alternative recruitment plan focused more on holding online events. Our experience has proven that such events are not only in high demand but also are more popular among the current generation. Since the start of the quarantine our team has conducted 15 live streams in social media as well as in Zoom platform: 9 sessions for high school graduates, 2 sessions for parents, 4 sessions for graduate candidates. Besides, we held a separate Online Information Day for Master’s and PhD candidates. The total number of attendees of all these virtual events comprised 6500 people.
Can you share a few details about the number of applicants/candidates who applied to the University this year?
Currently, the application is still available for a number of programs. As for the preliminary numbers, we see a dynamic growth in the number of applications every year, including both: local and international. The statistics demonstrate that the average increase in the number of applicants/candidates is 1242 annually. In 2017 we had 3966 applicants/candidates and the number increased up to 5597 in 2018. The year 2019 brought us 6451 applicants/candidates.
As of June 1, 2020, the number of applicants/candidates is 7758 already: Foundation – 3693; undergraduate – 1925; Master’s – 1809 (including Residency and Doctor of Medicine); PhD – 331. The application for the Foundation on a fee-paying basis and several PhD programs is still open. This year we have seen a record number of international applicants/candidates as well. 341 international applicants/candidates have applied to the University which is 4 times bigger than the last year number.
The Admissions Department wishes all applicants/candidates good luck and is willing to provide all the necessary information and support in admission related issues.
Phone number: +7 (7172) 64 25 84