More info about Astana’s university, THEE university

The following article dated June 20, 2014 and titled “Can a homegrown university in authoritarian Kazakhstan incubate reform?” was given to me by an American friend who used to teach with me in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Of course, as westerners have all been looking at how NU in Astana has affected the enrollment of students at the “prestigious” and world class university in Almaty. Maybe things are NOT as wonderful as they seem, especially if you read this article written by Joshua Kucera. (Please consider the source and what their motives are) http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/6/20/kazakhstan-s-audaciousnazarbayevuniversity.html
The first part reads the following:

With its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Kazakhstan inherited a university system in which corruption was ubiquitous and the curriculum focused on memorization rather than critical thinking. Its first solution was to use the country’s growing oil and gas revenues to pay for promising students to study abroad, particularly in the United States, after which they were required to return to work in Kazakhstan. The program, called Bolashak (“future” in Kazakh), has given scholarships to 10,000 students, who now form the core of the country’s young elite.

But Nazarbayev wanted a homegrown university where students would be educated in a Kazakh environment. Rather than attracting an American university to open a local branch (as New York University has done in the United Arab Emirates and Yale in Singapore), Kazakhstan decided to enlist foreign partners in setting up the school but to make it a Kazakhstan-owned enterprise.

The university “will become a national brand of Kazakhstan that will combine the advantages of the national education system and the best of international research and education practice,” Nazarbayev said at the school’s 2010 opening ceremony at the campus on the outskirts of the capital, Astana.

The president is fully aware that this is a much more expensive proposition than continuing the Bolashak program,” de Tray says. “But he also understood that he didn’t want students that were clones of Western institutions. He wanted Kazakhs who could compete in a global world.”

Built around a vast atrium featuring marble floors, palm trees, fountains and a massive flag of Kazakhstan, the school admitted its first students in the fall of 2010. One of its first challenges was operating a competitive admissions process in a country rife with nepotism and corruption. “There was a lot of pressure, especially on my Kazakh colleagues, but I also had to explain why their sons or daughters couldn’t get in,” says Shigeo Katsu, the university’s president, in an interview in his office, where two portraits of Nazarbayev hang.

The school will graduate its first class of roughly 420 undergraduates in the spring of 2015. There are three schools for undergraduates — engineering, science and technology, and humanities and social sciences — and graduate programs in business, education and public policy, with plans for schools of mining and medicine. Asked what the school’s budget is, Katsu declined to comment, saying, “It’s a sensitive topic.”

(to be continued)

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