A wide ranging shift from autocracy to an open HE system


The greater training panorama in Uzbekistan, Central Asia, has been altering quickly over the previous three years. Since the passing of Uzbekistan’s first president, Islam Karimov, in 2016, who had been in energy since 1991, the nation has seen an about-face underneath the management of his successor, Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

Under Mirziyoyev, a swathe of insurance policies intention to rework greater training into what one government minister has known as ‘Universities 3.0’.

These insurance policies will give universities extra autonomy to decide on their very own leaders and to handle their very own affairs via their governing our bodies, will give universities higher management over pupil numbers and course choices and can liberalise worth controls on tuition charges and enhance the variety of public-private partnerships.

In October 2019, these and different concepts have been formalised via the ratification of the Higher Education Development Plan to 2030.

Although Uzbekistan was the primary of the Central Asian states to allow worldwide department campuses, having hosted the United Kingdom’s University of Westminster and Russia’s Plekhanov Russian University of Economics since 2001-02, the variety of overseas greater training establishments remained very restricted at simply 5.

However, underneath Mirziyoyev, regulation was launched in late 2017 providing tax breaks and different monetary incentives. Since then, worldwide department campuses have unfold ‘like mushrooms’, based on Yekaterina Kazachenko, a journalist with the unbiased Russian company Fergana News.

Much fanfare accompanied the opening of the American Webster University, the place bilateral talks on opening campuses in Tashkent and Samarkand had apparently begun underneath the earlier management in 2012. However, it was not till the 2019-20 educational yr that the campuses have been inaugurated, with just below 500 college students.

According to the university, this makes the Uzbekistan branches the biggest inhabitants of Webster college students exterior of the college’s St Louis, Missouri, fundamental campus.

Interest from Russia and Asia

It’s not simply English-speaking nations which are getting in on the department campus act. Russia, which is the biggest supplier of department campuses to the nations of the previous Soviet Union, has additionally been rising its efforts to broaden the presence of its universities in Uzbekistan.

Campuses linked to six Russian universities opened in 2019 alone and talks are ongoing to create different branches.

With the nation’s strategic location between Europe and Asia, it’s unsurprising that curiosity in opening department campuses in Uzbekistan can also be emanating from the south and east.

The comparatively nicely established presence of Singapore (Management Development Institute of Singapore) and South Korea (Inha University) is being joined by Malaysia’s University of Technology and India’s Amity University, amongst others.

There are additionally rumours that China can be creating not only a department campus however a fully-fledged college within the capital Tashkent.

The flourishing of department campuses is one apparent space of change for the dimensions and form of the upper training system in Uzbekistan. Other reforms have additionally had a demonstrable influence, such because the resumption of the teaching of political science in 2019 after it was banned underneath Karimov, ostensibly as a result of it didn’t signify the then president’s ideological leanings.

The velocity of reform

Many of the plans being put ahead adhere to what we’d consider as a ‘standard operating procedure’ world template for greater training reform. It’s not solely Uzbekistan that’s welcoming worldwide department campuses, creating college rankings, opening science parks and pushing for publications in ranked worldwide journals, as readers of University World News can be nicely conscious.

Arguably, nonetheless, there are two issues that make the reforms in Uzbekistan stand out. The first is the sheer velocity with which a systemic overhaul is being launched. Mirziyoyev has been on the helm for lower than three years, however he has already made a major influence, not solely in greater training however within the media, economic system, social coverage and different areas.

The second is the gap that these reforms are taking Uzbekistan from the earlier authoritarian regime.

In September 2019, teachers in Uzbekistan and all over the world rejoiced on the fantastic information that the scholar Andrei Kubatin had been acquitted of all fees and launched from jail. Kubatin, a widely known Turkic research skilled and historian, had been imprisoned in 2017 and subjected to torture after being sentenced to an 11-year time period on false fees of treason.

Human rights watchers and teachers alike are hopeful that the reversal of Kubatin’s fees may result in the re-examination of different politically motivated circumstances.

Ongoing challenges

Nevertheless, Uzbekistan’s greater training sector continues to expertise vital challenges. One is systemic corruption, which ranges from bribing professors for grades to utilizing connections to acquire locations on well-liked programs.

Another problem is the limitation on who can entry a level. Although a record number of students utilized to get into college in 2019, participation charges in greater training are nonetheless low at 10% (the gross enrolment ratio in tertiary education for 2018).

This determine is even much less encouraging for girls (8%), who continue to experience gender discrimination and inequality. It can also be identified that college students from rural areas discover it harder to get into greater training.

A 3rd barrier comes from the top-heavy governance of the system, the place college leaders are appointed (and eliminated) on the state’s behest.

Yet, as skilled journalist Navbahor Imamova has lately pointed out, regardless of persevering with curtailments on residents’ liberties and low belief in authorities, the reforms in Uzbekistan to this point nonetheless replicate a “remarkable shift, one that stands in sharp contrast to what often seems like a relentless international trend toward greater repression, increasing autocracy, and eroding liberties”.

Emma Sabzalieva is a PhD candidate and Vanier Canada Graduate Scholar on the Centre for the Study of Canadian and International Higher Education, University of Toronto, Canada. She researches comparative greater training coverage with a regional specialisation within the former Soviet area.

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