Kazakh PhD students in UK initiate collaboration, research exchanges to achieve SDGs in Central Asia

ASTANA – Kazakhstan’s PhD Association in the U.K. will organise the second Central Asian Research Forum on Sustainable Development and Innovation March 18 in Loughborough and April 4 in the Kazakh capital. Loughborough University and Nazarbayev University will host the student-led initiative.

Aliya Sembayeva

As a preview, The Astana Times spoke with association founder and president Aliya Sembayeva to learn about its activities and projects.

“The forum will provide a platform for researchers to present and discuss their cutting-edge and action-oriented research projects on the sustainable development of Kazakhstan and Central Asia and to implement these projects in cooperation with potential partners from the government and business sector,” she said.

The forum will seek to establish institutional links and strengthen collaboration between Kazakh and British universities and stimulate sustainable development research across all local universities in Kazakhstan and other Central Asian nations.

Head of Samruk Kazyna Representative Office Mukan Arginbayev, Khalida Azhigulova, Aliya Sembayeva, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the U.K. Erlan Idrissov, President of Loughborough University Robert Allison, Representative of Bolashak centre in the U.K. and Ireland Alma Sydykova, Embassy Officer Anuar Adilbekov, Head of International Cooperation Department Charlie Carter (L to R).

The association organised the first forum in March with the support of the Kazakh Embassy in the U.K.

“Kazakh researchers demonstrated projects aimed at improving the life conditions of people in Kazakhstan and the entire Central Asian region,” she added.

The initial conference joined the association and Centre for Social Cooperation and Communication to actively involve PhD researchers in Samruk Kazyna Sovereign Wealth Fund projects and publish research results in the SK News corporate magazine.

Sembayeva is one of 71 PhD students currently studying in the U.K. She is pursuing her doctorate in chemistry at the University of Liverpool.

“The mission of our association is in line with the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development that is to end poverty, protect our planet, promote peace and ensure prosperity for all by achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030 and improving the quality of life in Kazakhstan for the current and future generations,” she said.

This year, young leaders launched Global Village School, a sustainable development project which turns rural schools into local cultural, educational and research centres operating according to the best global and cutting-edge managerial, academic and research practices.

“We want to set up primary and secondary schools in villages with the best global and inclusive teaching practices. We want to give a chance to children with any learning abilities and academic capabilities to get high-quality knowledge in their villages without the need to travel to bigger cities and to increase the competitiveness of graduates of village schools compared to the graduates of city schools,” she noted.

The project seeks to address issues such as the underdevelopment and degradation of villages and their marginalised populations and the significant development gap between villages and the major cities of Almaty and Astana, which leads to growing social tensions between their residents, rural unemployment and youth migration to urban areas while children and elderly remain in the villages.

“But the main thing to remember is that the ultimate success of the SDGs depends on solid collaboration and partnership among all concerned actors: the United Nations, governments, policy-makers, civil society, business sectors, local communities and, of course, researchers and universities,” said Sembayeva.

The association has also organised ongoing seminars and workshops in both countries.

“We conduct meetings once every two-three months, where we discuss our research projects and future plans. We invite professionals as our guest speakers to share their expertise and insights with all the interested students. We organise seminars and practical workshops led by our own experts. The upcoming practical workshop will be organised by Khalida Azhigulova, who is our PhD candidate in asylum and migration law at the University of Leicester, a Fellow of the British Academy of Higher Education, a certified UNHCR (United Nations Human Rights Council) trainer of protection learning programmes and a Central Asian expert in the law and politics of human rights and forced and labour migration in Central Asia,” she added.