Leading-Edge University to Spread Innovation and Excellence Across Country

Nov 22. MFA

Leading-Edge University to Spread Innovation and Excellence Across CountryPromotion of education and science in Kazakhstan and turning into Eurasia’s academic centre were the goals the Nazarbayev University set for itself as it commenced its work in the autumn of 2010. A little over a year later, it seems the University has advanced well in its mission: it contributes to the development of the national education system and has already turned into an educational and scientific hub of Kazakhstan, according to Kadisha Dairova, Deputy Chairman of the University’s Executive Council, whose account on the University’s latest accomplishments appeared on the Prime Minister’s site on November 18.

The Nazarbayev University is introducing innovative educational and research projects in the system of higher education of Kazakhstan, Dairova said in the interview. “The University is a unique project that was from the outset created as a testing ground for new innovative educational and research projects in order to share the accumulated experience and results with other universities and, of course, to help further develop the education system.”

“The Nazarbayev University is a kind of educational and scientific hub of Kazakhstan and in the future will be one for Central Asia and the entire post-Soviet space,” she added.

One of the Kazakhstan’s youngest universities, the Nazarbayev University already boasts four undergraduate and two graduate schools, three research centres, and impressive international partners from among the world’s top universities.

“We want our specialists to be able to compete globally in the future since the quality of a university is measured by its product. If our final products, in other words, our students are accepted to work in large international companies… we will be able to say that our mission is fulfilled,” Dairova said.

On June 15, 2011, the University changed its legal status and became “Autonomous educational organization,” based on the law signed by the President Nazarbayev in January this year. This law on the University’s status also provided the establishment of its own Endowment Fund. Moreover, it allowed the University to operate according to its own standards outside of the Ministry of Education and Science regulations. “The laws were adopted in order to provide us with basic principles such as autonomy, academic freedom, and a new system of university governance, that will help us fulfill the tasks set by the Head of State,” Dairova said.

The Nazarbayev University today offers 17 programmes for undergraduate students. “The primary task we face is to make the University engineering- and technology-oriented,” according to Dairova. The School of Science and Technology under the iCarnegie trains specialists in Computational Science, Robotics and Mechatronics, for example.

The School of Engineering, according to her, started its work by holding discussions with domestic and international companies operating in the country. As a result, they discovered that Kazakhstan did not have a sufficient number of highly qualified electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, civil engineers and chemical engineers. “That is why we are focused on the preparation of specialists in these four areas, and plan to add one programme every year,” Dairova explained.

In addition, she informed that the University planned to train specialists in nanotechnology and space activities in the future. For this, the University has signed memorandum for cooperation with the Kazakhstan Space Agency.

At the same time, basic sciences such as mathematics, biology, physics and chemistry, with training based on computer technologies, remain among the University’s priority areas. The School of Science and Technology offers programmes in Applied Physics, Applied Mathematics, Biological Science and Technology, and other related specialties.

“The study of basic sciences cannot be separated from applied sciences. We want to train our students in such a way that in the future they will be able to market their projects. Thus, their curricula include courses on management,” Dairova shared.

The other schools teaching undergraduate programme in the Nazarbayev University include the School of Social Sciences and Humanities and the School of Medicine. Similar to other departments, both have established partnerships with the world’s leading universities. The University also has the Graduate School of Public Policy and the Graduate School of Business.

The Centre of Education Policy, one of University’s three research centres, cooperates with the University of Cambridge and the University of Pennsylvania. The Faculty of Education of Cambridge is famous for the experience in the development of strong secondary education, while the Pennsylvania University is famous for the development of higher education, according to Dairova. The Nazarbayev University has a lot to learn from its partners in order to further develop and improve its own governance policy, she said.

“We are very thoughtful in our approach to selecting partners for cooperation. We understand that we have a huge responsibility because of the unprecedented political and financial support we receive. We understand our responsibility before our society and people. We hope that this project will allow Kazakhstan not only to remain a leader in the region, but also advance as one of the world’s developed nations,” she concluded.

In 2011, a total of 502 students have enrolled and are studying in the Nazarbayev University, in addition to 484 students from the previous year.