higher education cooperation
News agency Avesta has published possibly the most boring story I’ve read about the prospects for higher education cooperation between Tajikistan and China. Seriously, this post could easily have been called ‘Diplomacy wins, or: How to make a story from nothing’.
Bear in mind I read a lot of news stories about education in Central Asia (I know, I know, it’s a selfless task) and I come across my fair share of government-issued press releases or uncritical adulation of whatever new policy the Eternal Leader of the Spotless Country has come up with.
But this one was so vague and, well, diplomatic that I am translating it in full so that English language readers can share my pain (Russian language readers, you can check out the original here):
Education cooperation between universities in Tajikistan and China discussed in Beijing
Avesta.tj, 3 December 2019
The Ambassador of Tajikistan to China Parviz Davlatzoda visited Beijing City University, the press service of the Republic of Tajikistan in the Chinese People’s Republic reports.
During the Ambassador’s meeting with Liu Song, the Rector of Beijing university, the parties exchanged views on the prospects for cooperation in the areas of science, education and culture.
Parviz Davlatzoda noted that Tajikistan attaches great importance on educational cooperation, particularly in relation to professional training of highly qualified personnel
The Rector of the university and heads of departments acquainted the Tajik diplomat with the University’s phases of development. The main directions of the university’s activities in research and teaching were presented.
The parties also discussed possibilities to cooperation in the field of international education, research and industrial activity.
The parties noted the importance of establishing and developing cooperation between universities in both countries through organizing joint events and participating in each others’ conferences and seminars.
The immportance of actively engaging in academic mobility programmes for students and faculty was also underlined.
Still awake? Well done you, and congratulations Avesta for producing this yawnfest.
A rare story from Turkmenistan [ru] popped up in my inbox recently. Authored by the Russian language website turkmenistan.ru, it describes how a group of university leaders from the country recently visited Romania to discuss expanding their institutional partnerships.
The short article lists a number of agreements being signed between universities in the two countries. From the Turkmen side, the institutions included in these memoranda are the Turkmenistan State Medical University, the Turkmen State Institute of Economics and Management, the Turkmen Agricultural University and the Turkmen State Institute of Architecture and Construction.
The signing of bilateral partnerships between universities in different countries is commonplace in global higher education, so the fact of the agreements isn’t in itself noteworthy.
However, with so little coverage available about higher education in Turkmenistan to those outside the country (and possibly also to those inside the country), this short story nevertheless offers insights into two areas of interest for Central Asia/higher education followers:
- International cooperation – Turkmenistan has chosen to remain notoriously isolated since obtaining independence, although its extensive oil and gas reserves attract significant activity by international firms. Despite occasional incursions onto the global stage, such as hosting the 2017 Asian Games at terrific expense, for the most part, Turkmenistan chooses to organize its own affairs. Higher education largely continues to follow the model inherited from the Soviet period, although efforts are underway to ‘globalize’ some universities in the country*. It is in this light that we should view the recent overseas trip made by a handful of university leaders: a small but perceptible shift towards allowing outside influences into the domestic higher education system. This framing then opens up other questions around what is motivating this growth in international cooperation, and what the intended purposes of institutional agreements are (the article does not give details on the agreements that were signed last month).
- Choice of partner – it’s impossible to draw conclusions from the limited information in the article, but I would speculate that the choice to partner with universities in Romania was deliberate. Romania and Turkmenistan share aspects of the socialist/communist higher education legacy but unlike Turkmenistan, Romania is a member of the European Union and has sought to rapidly internationalize higher education since joining the EU in 2007 (for more, download this free book on higher education reforms in Romania). For Turkmenistan’s universities, this offers not only a mutually understandable starting point, but a foothold into the European higher education area. There are a range of EU projects connecting Turkmenistan to Europe, and education is one of the EU’s priority areas. So it makes sense to seek out a ‘friendly’ partner who might also help Turkmenistan as and when it makes deeper incursions into the European higher education space.
*If you cannot access this article but would like to read it, please contact me. Where possible, I link to open access materials.