Tertiary or higher education in Kazakhstan is being given the utmost importance by the Government of Kazakhstan as I understood from my interaction with Professor Simon Jones, the Provost of Nazarbayev University, one of the country's better known institutions of higher education.
Hailing from Wales in the United Kingdom, Professor Jones, a specialist in micro-engineering and a passionate follower of the game of cricket, told me that Nazarbayev University is an autonomous research university located in Astana, and just two years old, and aiming to be the best research-oriented university in Central Asia in collaboration with 30 universities, including the National University of Singapore, the Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Cambridge.
Having already been informed by Kazakhstan's Minister of Culture that about 9000 Kazakh students were studying abroad on scholarships, I asked Professor Jones whether there is a possibility of Kazakhstan experiencing a brain drain of sorts similar to what India had experienced between the 1960s and 1990s.
Emphatically stating that there is no evidence of Kazakhstan experiencing or suffering from brain drain now or in the future, Professor Jones said: "The Government of Kazakhstan is following an education policy that is progressive, that believes in encouraging the younger generation to strive for higher educational qualifications, whether here or from abroad, as it believes that it is important to develop the country, and ensure a better future for Kazakhstan. The Kazakhstan Government is the single biggest employer of students who have acquired higher education degrees from abroad.
Making a specific reference to the "Bolashak Scholarship", Professor Jones said this scholarship was created by decree by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in 1993 as part of Kazakhstan's transition towards a market economy and its desire to expand international contacts through its workforce.
He said that in the early 1990s, there was an acute need for a workforce with advanced western education, and therefore, it was deemed necessary to send the most qualified youth to study in leading educational institutions in foreign countries.
Kazakhstan's "Bolashak Scholarship" is merit-based and the selection process includes not only academic credentials, but also competence in the language of study, psychological testing and an interview process.
A student has to also profess commitment to the development of Kazakhstan and have a spirit of patriotism to be eligible for the scholarship.
Jones said that the final decision on which student or students are eligible is made by the Republican Commission, chaired by the State Secretary and composed of the Ministers, members of Parliament, and members of the Office of the President.
The Republican Commission also approves the country of study and program of study.
The scholarship requires that all recipients return to Kazakhstan after graduating and work for five years in Kazakhstan. The scholarship pays for all costs related to education, including tuition and fees, costs of travel, and a living stipend. Scholars are expected to maintain academic excellence.
The most popular countries are the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, Australia and Malaysia.
Other interesting information made by Professor Jones were that the university is determined to attract the best of faculty from around the world, including from India, to teach its students, who are currently from Kazakhstan. He said that probably from next year, students from other countries maybe admitted.
He said that Nazarbayev University has on its faculty academicians from the IITs, Non-Resident Indian researchers who teach a wide variety of subjects.
He said Nazarbayev University is legally linked to both the Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools and the Nazarbayev Endowment Fund, all of which are dedicated to promoting educational reform in Kazakhstan.
The Supreme Board of Trustees is the managing authority of the University, Intellectual Schools and the Fund, and is headed by the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev. The Board of Trustees is in charge of general management of the university's activities.
The university currently consists of six schools: the School of Engineering, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, the School of Science and Technology, the Graduate School of Business, the Graduate School of Education, and the Graduate School of Public Policy. The School of Medicine is expected to open in 2015, and a School of Mining is currently being considered.
Nazarbayev University offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees, ranging from bachelor's degrees to the Ph.D.
As of 2012, undergraduate majors available to students included anthropology, biology/biomedicine, chemical engineering, chemistry, civil engineering, computational science, economics, electrical and electronic engineering, mathematics, mechanical engineering, physics, political science/international relations, robotics and mechatronics, sociology, world history/philosophy/religion, and world languages, literature and culture.
Most students at Nazarbayev University are initially admitted to the Centre for Preparatory Studies, a one-year programme operated by University College, London. At the end of this programme, they then apply to undergraduate programmes in the University itself. In addition, some students are admitted directly to the undergraduate programmes at the University, while others transfer to the University from other universities.
Nazarbayev University has established six internationally respected partnerships. Each school in the university has one or more partner institution, with which it works on issues of curriculum and programme design, student admissions, faculty recruitment, and quality assurance.
For example, the partner institution of the School of Engineering is the University College London, which also operates the Center for Preparatory Studies at Nazarbayev University. The partner institution of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences is the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Carnegie Mellon University is the partner institution of the School of Science and Technology.
The university is also home to the Centre for Life Sciences (CLS) and the Nazarbayev University Research and Innovation System (NURIS).By Ashok Dixit (ANI)