Building research capacity at universities in the former Soviet space (new book)

The very lovely cover of the new book

It’s been a very long time in the making but the new book Building research capacity at universities: Insights from post-Soviet countries is now out!

The book offers a comprehensive analysis of developments in higher education systems across the former Soviet space with a focus on research capacity. I’m pleased to have a chapter in the book examining Tajikistan.

Why research capacity? Because in the Soviet period, the teaching and research mission of universities was often separated, and universities did not typically or vigorously engage in research. Instead, their job was to train future workers and this was accomplished through teaching.

Yet over the past three decades, changes in higher education systems have led to transformations in the missions of universities, with many now combining multiple functions beyond their earlier focus on teaching. As such, by studying the extent to which research capacity has developed or is being built, we gain a better understanding of different types of research and how it is supported, financed and governed in different systems. Not only that, we also get to see the bigger picture of the direction in which higher education systems in the ex-Soviet space are reforming – because reform has never been off the agenda over the past 30 years.

That direction of reform is for the most part singular, heading towards the generalized idea of the ‘research university’ i.e. one in which research is prioritized as much as (if not more than) teaching. I would argue that the so-called third mission of community engagement has not yet become embedded in the systems that have adopted the research mission – but that topic requires another book!

For every rule, there are always exceptions, and in the case of this book, my chapter on Tajikistan would be a good example. In my study, which is based on literature by Tajik academics, interviews I undertook with Tajik researchers, and policy document analysis, I found that a research mission has not (yet) been internalized. Furthermore, the prospects that this will become more embedded are constrained by the heavily politicized and increasingly authoritarian environment in the country.

Access to the book is open for institutional subscribers and it can be downloaded in pdf format chapter by chapter or in its beautiful entirety. Please contact me if you are having any issues accessing the electronic version.

Kudos to the book editors Maia Chankseliani, Igor Fedyukin and Isak Frumin for their leadership and extreme patience since they first proposed the collection over three (!) years ago. A lot has happened since and sadly the world is not a better place, particularly in this region. I hope that our contribution to building knowledge of and from the former Soviet space will also serve as a contribution towards increasing mutual understanding and much-needed tolerance and peace.


Chankseliani, M., Fedyukin, I., & Frumin, I. (Eds.). (2022). Building Research Capacity at Universities: Insights from Post-Soviet Countries. Springer International Publishing.

My chapter:

Sabzalieva, E. (2022). From Policy Design to Lived Experiences: Developing University Research Capacity in Tajikistan Since 1991. In M. Chankseliani, I. Fedyukin, & I. Frumin (Eds.), Building Research Capacity at Universities: Insights from Post-Soviet Countries (pp. 263–283). Springer International Publishing.

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