Will universities of Kazakhstan get “real” autonomy?

Today, one of the important subjects within the higher education is the entry of Kazakhstan in Bologna Process. The main goal of joining to Bologna Process is to make Kazakhstani higher education conforming international standards for improvement of its quality and gradual integration into world educational community. Signing of the Magna Charta Universitatum is a basis of the Bologna declaration which is a serious step on the way to integration. In Magna Charta Universitatum, autonomy is a fundamental principle of the university. Signing this document, universities assume obligations to develop autonomy of higher education institutions, democratic principles of management, the academic freedom, etc.

According to the State program of education development in the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2011-2020 Board of Trustees (BoT) will function in institutions in order to provide corporate management and transparency of educational system management (SPED, 2011-2020). The Boards of Trustees as guarantors of an autonomy of higher education institutions play a direct and key role at autonomous university. According to Sagintayeva A. et al (2014) “sixty four public universities have established boards of trustees”.

However, at the present time Nazarbayev University is the only legal autonomous university in Kazakhstan (“On the Status”, 2011). All the academic institutions follow the Ministry’s regulations irrespective of their ownership except Nazarbayev University that reports to the Board of Trustees headed by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Supreme Board of Trustees headed by the President of Kazakhstan. There is a long list of functions of BoT, among them the most important are elect the President of the University, approve budgets of the University, determine upper and lower limits of salaries of the university authorities, approve the budgeting rules, approve accounting policy of the University (NU Charter). Whereas, for example, functions of Board of Trustees of Kazakh National University are the following: member of BoT may participate in development and implementation of measures for university development, participate in academic council meetings. The difference between both governing bodies is obvious.

Similarly, Raza (2008) supports the view that government of Kazakhstan continues impose restrictions, “any meaningful autonomy been handed down to individual TEIs. The Ministry of Education and Science remains the central body responsible for both the broader management of the sector as well as being the primary body for regulation”. That means that Board of Trustees as a model of managing higher education institutions is still lack of clear rules and play more advisory role.

To sum up, universities are in the process of implementing autonomy and Board of Trustees was recently introduced in HEIs of Kazakhstan. I do not know how successful our universities will implement this reform and I do not know if government provides full autonomy to the universities, but I hope that Nazarbayev University will achieve its mission and will help other universities in implementing new reforms.


Nazarbayev University Charter.

Raza, R. (2009). Examining autonomy and accountability in public and private tertiary institutions. Human Development Network, The World Bank. Eriflim tarihi, 21(03), 2011.

State Program of Education Development in the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2011-2020.

Sagintayeva, A., Kurakbayev, K. (2014). Understanding the transition of public universities to institutional autonomy in Kazakhstan. European Journal of Higher Education, 1-14.

1 thought on “Will universities of Kazakhstan get “real” autonomy?

  1. Dear Aizhan,

    Thank you for raising such an interesting and hot topic of higher education. In my opinion, granting the autonomy to the universities in Kazakhstan is very-very complicated and debatable issue. Nazarbayev University is considered as an example for other Kazakhstani higher education universities (HEIs) which is going to transmit its experience to other ones. Moreover, the autonomous status of the universities is going to be established in coming years. However, as all of us know, any educational reforms or changes should be founded on research-based evidences to avoid any possible drawbacks and to reduce any foreseen negative outcomes. How is the process of granting autonomy going on in our universities? Do all the criteria understood by all the governing body as top level providers of decisions and by administrative body as implementers of the changes? As practical and real situations reveal that some of the significant changes can lead to less positive consequences. Therefore, may be there is a need of clear strategic vision before implementing the reforms, good understanding among academics what the autonomous status means, supply with all the needed information to learn how to restructure and reorganize the governance and culture of educational organization? Only with a firm basis of knowledge there will be more merits than challenges.

    Liked by 1 person

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