The Kazakh government has decided to take a big step towards greater independence for Kazakh universities by reforming the top layer of institutional governance. ‘Oversight councils’, also commonly known as Councils or Senates, will be responsible for hiring and firing Rectors (Vice Chancellors/CEOs) and have monitoring oversight for university finance and strategy. (How those councils are selected is not yet clear but could have important implications for the success of this plan)
The government is quick to point out that this shouldn’t be interpreted as a mass privatisation movement. I don’t have details but it appears that the state will still continue providing a significant proportion of funding for the country’s universities (unless they are already operating as private institutions). What also won’t change is that the national government will still issue degrees: universities do not (yet?) have autonomy to accredit their own degrees and there is no parallel accreditation and quality assurance process.
However, the government hopes that this will encourage greater competitiveness between institutions and make them more responsible for their own organisation. I believe that the move to place university governance more directly into the hands of universities is a positive step towards allowing and even encouraging diversity in higher education. This diversity may become evident through, for example, differential strategic plans or choosing to raise income from non-state sources. There is a definite drive towards improving the quality and reputation of Kazakh higher education, but it will only be successful if the government really commits to allowing universities to take control of their own management and strategy, and underpins this with a robust and fair system of quality assurance for all institutional types.
This article was inspired by a piece in Central Asia Online called Collegiate management coming to Kazakhstani universities, source http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/main/2013/12/09/feature-01.