Higher education in Russia and beyond

New publication: Who are Tajikistan’s international students?

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HERB_12_cover.jpg.(200x-x123)Who leaves Tajikistan to study abroad, and why?

Where do these students go, and what do they study?

What are their post-study destinations?

These are some of the questions I address in my new essay on Tajikistan’s international students, out today in Higher Education in Russia & Beyond (HERB).

You can find out more about the survey on which this essay is based in earlier blog posts (in five parts): part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5.

As I conclude, studying abroad can be a profoundly transformational experience. Many of the people that participated in the research I am reporting on said they had changed greatly as a result of their experiences.

This feeling is neatly encapsulated by the words of one respondent:

“I am so much [a] different person now than I was back then. Education here has broadened my mind to the things that I had no idea of their existence and as I grow in possessing my knowledge I see the opportunities that I can get, and the things that I can do in my life and with my life. I am [a] much happier person now than I was before.”

This issue of HERB looks holistically at international students across the former Soviet space, and I encourage you to take a look at the other essays in this collection.

Higher Education in Russia & Beyond 2(12) – link to whole issue

New article out: The Dominance of Social Sciences in English-Medium Instruction Universities in Central Asia

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The latest issue of Higher Education in Russia and Beyond, 3(5) Fall 2015, is just out today and I’m delighted to say it has an essay I wrote in it. The informational newsletter comes from the prestigious Higher School of Economics in Moscow as part of a cooperation agreement with Boston College’s Center of International Higher Education.

The theme for this issue is the disciplinary divide and my short article focusses on the dominance of social sciences in English-medium instruction universities in Central Asia. Using three universities in the region – Westminster International University Tashkent (WIUT) in Uzbekistan, the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) in Kyrgyzstan and KIMEP University in Kazakhstan – I show a strong trend towards offering social sciences subjects and explain why I think that might be the case.

It’s a short article written for non-specialists so please do have a look! This is an area of research that I find very interesting so any feedback or comments you have about the essay and about the field of investigation would be very welcome.

The full issue of HERB can also be downloaded as a pdf here: HERB_05_Emma article on social science in EMI universities_Sep2015.

Higher education in Russia and beyond

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I welcome the launch of a new bulletin, Higher Education in Russia and Beyond (HERB). Published in English by Moscow-based Higher School of Economics as a supplement to International Higher Education [ru], the bulletin aims

to present current Russian, Central Asian and Eastern European educational trends to the international higher education research community.

Aside from boasting the best acronym I’ve come across for a long time, HERB represents an important new regional perspective on higher education, a field that has long been dominated by North American and European-centric views. Further, the Soviet period has left a strong imprint on higher education in the post-Soviet sphere that can sometimes make comparisons with other higher education systems challenging. I hope that this new bulletin will genuinely represent regional views (not just Russian analysis, although I accept that it’s a Russian-led publication and that in terms of quantity, most universities in the region are in Russia).

Of particular interest to my research in the first issue is a short article by Dmitry Semyonov of the Higher School of Economics, which looks at the Russian excellence initiative in the post-Soviet context. The Russian excellence initiative, like similar programmes in Germany and China, represents significant government investment in enhancing quality in a selective number of universities by investing in their research, buying in international faculty and otherwise driving towards recognition in global university rankings.,

Semyonov places post-Soviet government policies on a scale that ranges from ‘environmental’ to ‘selective’. ‘Environmental’ policies broadly support and invest in higher education with a view to encouraging the university system to become more in line with the Bologna Process, i.e. more European in feel and outlook. At the other end are the ‘selective’ state policies that, like Russia, look to develop a small group of universities to compete internationally. Semyonov calls Kazakhstan the most distinctive case in this group with the government’s emphasis on developing a single institution (Nazarbayev University).

In concluding, however, Semyonov notes that a number of countries in the post-Soviet sphere – notably Central Asia and the Caucasus,

have very limited opportunities and are unlikely to launch a program similar to the Russian one. Quality of teaching, equal access to high-quality education, lack of competent staff, and [an] unstable economic basis of higher education are considered to be more pressing issues…

There’s a whiff of the Russian post-colonialist in this concluding statement, but also more than a grain of truth. However, Semyonov might look to a higher education system like Singapore’s or Malaysia’s where the government has (mostly successfully) tackled a number of serious problems in higher education simultaneously, such is their impatience to improve the country’s standing. That said, where those countries prosper, many of the Central Asian and Caucasian states do not, and the ‘unstable economic basis’ seems to me the most compelling barrier to progress in those countries.

 

Reference

Semyonov, D. Russian excellence initiative in the post-Soviet context, Higher Education in Russia and Beyond, 1, spring 2014,  http://herb.hse.ru/data/2014/05/30/1325398755/1HERB_01_Spring.pdf (accessed 08.07.14)