UK-Based Heriot – Watt University to Open Branch in Kazakhstan

LONDON – The Heriot – Watt University will open a branch at the Zhubanov Aktobe Regional University in Kazakhstan. This was announced during the signing of an agreement between Kazakh Minister of Science and Higher Education Sayasat Nurbek and Vice-Principal and Provost at Heriot – Watt University Mark Biggs at the Feb. 1 meeting of the United Kingdom-Kazakhstan intergovernmental commission in London.

Kazakh Minister of Science and Higher Education Sayasat Nurbek and Vice-Principal and Provost at Heriot-Watt University Mark Biggs sign a memorandum of cooperation. Photo credit: Assem Assaniyaz.

According to rector of the Aktobe Regional University Laura Karabasova, the admission of applicants will begin the following academic year with the allocation of state educational grants.  

“We will enroll 300 students for the three English-language bachelor programs – oil and gas business, electric power engineering, and computer engineering. The graduates will be awarded double diplomas from both Heriot – Watt University and Zhubanov Aktobe Regional University,” Karabasova told The Astana Times. 

“The students will also be able to transfer throughout the network of Heriot – Watt universities, for instance, to Malaysia, Dubai, and Scotland,” she added.  

Biggs, who visited Aktobe two weeks ago to meet with the leadership of the region and the university’s administration, told the Astana Times that “it is an opportunity to support the development of the higher education system in Kazakhstan and it is also important for the Heriot – Watt University to make a world-class education accessible.”

Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy for Kazakhstan Emma Nicholson. Photo credit: Assem Assaniyaz.

“To be frank, this is just the tip of an iceberg. I am very keen for us to be an educational hub for students coming from that region of the world [Central Asia] to establish research ties and to work with businesses in this area, as we currently do in all other places we operate around the world,” he said.  

In her remarks during the event, Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy for Kazakhstan Emma Nicholson stressed that “the partnership between the United Kingdom and Kazakhstan is 30 years strong and the education sector is crucial for the future.”

Speaking about the driving forces of the country’s development of the education system, the Kazakh minister emphasized the rapid population growth amid geopolitical tendencies, highlighting “an unprecedented population explosion in the region, where Kazakhstan is one of the examples.” 

“We have 623,000 postgraduate and graduate students, and this number is increasing. By 2029, it is planned to open 12 branches of foreign universities in Kazakhstan,” said Nurbek. 

He also mentioned the recent opening of branches of the Gubkin Russian State University at the Atyrau Oil and Gas University and the Russian National Research Nuclear University at the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, as well as the University of Arizona program at the Kozybayev North Kazakhstan University.   

According to Chair of the Management Board of Center for International Programs Anuar Zhangozin, there are 329 holders of the Bolashak international scholarships in the United Kingdom in 2023 and 32 British universities in the program’s list for Kazakh students.    

The participants paid attention to ensuring equal opportunities for both men and women in the education sector.  

In this context, Chairman of the Board and rector of the Kazakh National Women’s Pedagogical University Gulmira Kanai called for advancing the scope and quality of education for women and teachers in Kazakhstan and Central Asia, and enhancing access to higher education for women from Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries. 

This initiative was implemented as part of the implementation of the instructions of Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to introduce sophisticated international best practices into domestic universities. 

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