Central Asian Countries to Create Unified Higher Education Zone

NUR-SULTAN – The ministries of education of the Central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, have agreed to create a unified higher education area in the region that would entail an exchange of knowledge, students and academic staff between their higher education institutions, reported the press service of Kazakh Ministry of Education and Science on June 18. 

As of the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year, there are 129 higher educational institutions in Kazakhstan. Photo credit: open sources.

This was announced at the higher education-themed forum titled “Central Asian Higher Educational Area: Regional Cooperation, National Reforms” held in Turkistan. 

The Turkistan declaration, which forms an agreement in the sphere of higher education was signed by the representatives of the Central Asian states. 

Central Asian countries are set to expand regional cooperation by combining the scientific, intellectual and creative potential of higher education institutions in the region. The unified area will serve as a zone, where university students and academic staff will be able to transfer freely, exchange knowledge and experience and collaborate on joint research projects. The parties also agreed to foster social ties between universities’ student bodies and to hold regional forums for rectors.

Cooperation between the participating countries will be implemented according to the principle of the Bologna process.

The declaration includes the formation of alliances of Central Asian universities and Central Asian students, the creation of the accreditation council for quality assurance of education in the region and the creation of the association of organizations for the recognition of qualifications and educational documents.

An independent secretariat will be formed to coordinate the work between the ministries of education of the member states. The secretariat will also work toward promoting higher education in Central Asia and enhancing the competitiveness of the region on the global higher education scene. 

Kazakh Minister of Education and Science Askhat Aimagambetov noted that the establishment of the unified area is a necessity due to growing regional ties. 

“Mutual migration of citizens within the region is growing annually. About 70 percent of the total number of educational documents signed annually are documents from universities in Central Asia. About 20,000 Central Asian citizens are currently studying at Kazakh universities and this figure is growing every year. In this regard, within the framework of a single area for higher education, it would be possible to consider the issue of a facilitated procedure for the recognition of qualifications. But all this requires building synchronized higher education systems,” said Aimagambetov.

An existing analog of the Central Asian higher education area are the higher education mechanisms of the European Union (EU) where universities have to meet certain standards to be recognized on the EU level. The EU Commission to Kazakhstan expressed its commitment to assist in the development of new educational practices. 

“We all know that a well-functioning and modern education and training system is a fundamental pre-requisite for a country’s development. The emerging challenges linked to an increasingly globalized society require a more skilled and specialized workforce, which can actively respond to the new demands of the labor market and deliver smart, inclusive and sustainable growth. The EU is fully aware of this – which is why, in spite of these difficult economic and budgetary times; we are calling for more coordinated and coherent action in the sector of education, both for EU and non-EU member states,” said EU Ambassador to Kazakhstan Sven-Olov Carlsson at the forum.

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