Bolashak International Scholarship Programme Celebrates 20 Years

Nazarbayev and BolashakASTANA – A celebration of the twentieth year of the Bolashak International Scholarship Programme took place on Nov. 29 at the Palace of Independence with President Nursultan Nazarbayev in attendance.

The event included discussion of current challenges faced in implementing the Kazakhstan 2050 national strategy, new political policy and a summarization of the programme’s 20 year history

The event was opened by the Chairman of the Council of the Bolashak International Scholarship Programme Association Fellows, Bauyrzhan Baibek.

“Bolashak fellows established this association 12 years ago to unite active and well-educated youth wanting to contribute to the development of their homeland. Today, this association unites three generations of successful and ambitious people. Our main goal is to lead the country towards prosperity,” Baibek said.

He stressed the youth’s importance in building a strong and competitive society, as the young are the backbone of any developing nation. He also noted that about 50,000 young people got the chance to study abroad thanks to this scholarship programme, including through short-term internships. More than 900 of them are now working in the regions. “I am also proud to say that thanks to our fellows, we have dubbed several Hollywood movies into the Kazakh language,” Baibek said.Bolashak celebration

Nazarbayev welcomed all of the event’s participants and expressed his pleasure in being amongst Bolashak scholars at such a formal occasion.

“The Bolashak programme is a farsighted solution for a young country’s post-independence hardships.At the dawn of independence, Kazakhstan needed highly-qualified professionals capable of conducting further reforms to overcome obstacles. Today, Bolashak scholars work in all spheres of the economy and are securing the further development of Kazakhstan by using what they learned while studying abroad. You [Bolashak fellows] are the future of this country,” the President said.

In his speech, Nazarbayev also noted that thanks to Bolashak scholars, Kazakhstan reached its previous goal and became one of the 50 most developed countries in the world. Now, the country is pursuing a spot in the top 30.

“I still remember the first 187 students from 1993. Now, there are more than 10,000! And each second fellow is working in a Kazakh enterprise,” said Nazarbayev.

It is also remarkable that two thirds of the fellows are children whose parents do not work in government and 200 fellows were orphaned as children. There are also Bolashak scholars among the Kazakhs who migrated back to Kazakhstan from China. This proves that the programme gives a chance to every citizen. Nazarbayev University, which was established in order to give Bolashak scholars the opportunity to pass their knowledge to the next generation, has become home to 200 of these fellows..

One of the conference guests was British Education and Science Minister David Willets who congratulated the President as well as all Bolashak fellows on the programme’s 20th year. He also delivered Prime Minister David Cameron’s greetings. Cameron visited Kazakhstan this summer and said he enjoyed his time in the country.

“I am very proud that my country is the number one destination for Bolashak fellows. Four thousand Kazakhstan students have studied in British universities. I should also mention that our universities were impressed by the quality of your students and we will gladly welcome more Kazakhstan students in the future,” said Willets.

According to the British minister, he came to Kazakhstan not only for the event, but also to discuss the launch of a new fellowship programme for those who want to study cutting edge technology. The minister expressed his hope that this programme will serve as a bridge between the two countries and will allow British students to come to Kazakhstan in the future.

During the event, many Bolashak fellows gave speeches discussing their Bolashak experiences, recent personal accomplishments and plans for the future.

One of the first students, Dmitry Gorbunov, who studied heart surgery in Germany, is now one of the most renowned surgeons in Kazakhstan. He thanked the President for establishing a new fully equipped cardiac surgery centre where 13 Bolashak fellows are currently working. He also noted that two successful heart transplants were performed at the centre; more importantly, such surgeries are free for patients, as they are fully sponsored by the government.

“Being able to perform surgery out in the regions is a huge achievement for us, the fact that we are able to operate on anyone there, even newborns, makes it even more remarkable. Five years ago, I was giving a speech at this event and talked about the 600 surgeries I had performed. Now, I can say that this number has reached 1,717,”  Gorbunov said.

Another fellow, Rustem Karymov, who graduated in 2008 from a British university, put his knowledge of e-Commerce into practice after returning to Kazakhstan. He helped bring the electronic ticket system to Kazakhstan while working at Air Astana. Right now, he is a co-founder of a successful online shop.

“I am an ordinary boy from Karaganda who grew up in an ordinary family headed by a teacher and miner. This scholarship gave me a rare opportunity to get an education and to learn from the best. Now, I’m continuing to work for the betterment of entrepreneurs in Kazakhstan, the country holds great potential for young and ambitious people,” Karymov said.

During the forum, Bolashak fellows who are still studying in London, Washington, D.C. and Shanghai congratulated the President and fellows on the 20th anniversary via internet and wished that the current and future scholars find success.

Kazakhstan boxer Serik Sapiyev was one of those students. He said that studying in London was a “second life” and “golden ticket” he got after winning the Olympics in 2012.

Near the end of the event, the President awarded the 10,000th certificate to Azimkhan Kozhakhmetov who is going to study nanoengineering in the USA.

The Bolashak International Scholarship Programme was established on Nov. 5, 1993 by a decree of President Nazarbayev. Year after year, the programme has gained momentum and was eventually declared a state objective. In the programme’s early years, scholars studied in four countries – the USA, the U.K., Germany and France. Later, more countries were added to the list. From 2005-2013, the Bolashak Scholarship was awarded to 9,240 Kazakhs to study in 200 top universities across 33 countries. Most of them chose to study in Great Britain; the USA is the second most popular destination. Third place is tied between Germany, Canada and Russia. All in all, 10,025 scholarships have been awarded over the past 20 years of the programme’s existence. Of them, 52 percent have been for social sciences students, 38 percent of Bolashak recipients graduated to work in the industrial-manufacturing sector. Furthermore, 12 percent and 8 percent of Bolashak graduates went into the creative arts and the healthcare industries respectively. All Bolashak fellows are employed and 64 percent work in Kazakh companies, 27 percent work in government, state owned companies employ 6 percent and NGOs employ 3 percent.