22 SES 02 B, Policy, Management and Governance in Higher Education
Higher education is a key economic and social priority in the global arena. Many countries have sought to advance reforms aimed at increasing access, promoting greater educational quality, and ensuring financial responsibility and sustainability. Kazakhstan offers an example of a country seeking to improve student access and success, and promote greater fiscal efficiency to advance the overall quality of its higher education system (Merrill, 2010). A key strategy for achieving these goals is through reforms in university governance—specifically, adopting practices from other nations that move the locus of control from the Ministry of Education and Science to individual campuses and through the formation of boards of trustees.
In Central Asia, policy makers have advanced education reforms in order to accomplish several goals, including meeting “the new demands of ethnic nationalism, a globally competitive economy, and a labour market freed from administrative control” (Anderson & Heyneman, 2005, 361). In Kazakhstan, policy makers have concluded that a system predicated on decentralized control with greater institutional autonomy (and accountability), along the lines of the U.S. system, offers a promising strategy for improving the overall quality of its higher education system. This institutional autonomy is centrally linked to the creation and use of boards of trustees. Recent legislation requires a majority of universities to establish boards of trustees by 2020.
However, the role of boards of trustees that exists in the U.S. was developed in a particular context. For example, early colleges and universities were established and maintained by particular communities of support and boards represented a way for these external groups to provide oversight for their investment (Taylor, Chait, & Holland, 1999). Further, the system of governance in the U.S. reveals that constituents are all expected to have a sense of agency and to play a role in decision making (Hartley, 2003). Also, there is clarity regarding the roles of these different constituent groups (as evidenced by documents from the American Association of University Professors and the Association of Governing Boards.) This provides at least some guidance regarding who should be a party to making various kinds of important decisions. There is no such history in Kazakhstan.
To be effective, boards must be attentive to five key dimensions of their work (Chait, Taylor & Holland, 1993).
- Contextual Dimension: Upholding the mission of the institution and the core values it seeks to advance;
- Educational Dimension: Being well-informed about academic issues at the institution and monitoring academic quality;
- Interpersonal Dimension: Paying attention to the work of the board itself. Maintaining an appropriate board structure with board sub-committees;
- Political Dimension: Maintaining good relationships with key constituencies--the senior administration, the faculty and students;
- Strategic Dimension: Envisioning the institution’s future and thinking strategically.
This framework offers a useful rubric for understanding how boards in Kazakhstan are structuring and defining their work. Institutional leaders in Kazakhstan are being asked to implement reforms that are rooted in boards of trustees that are wholly novel in concept and practice. Their experiences reveal some of the challenges of importing policies from other nations. They are also in the position of looking at a decentralized system of governance with fresh eyes and offering important insights into some of the limitations of such a system
This research was informed by the following questions:
1) What processes were used to establish these boards?
2) How has the work of the board been defined? How does the work of Kazakhstani boards conform to the five dimensions of board work identified above?
3) What role, if any, do these boards play in the governance process at these institutions?
Anderson, K.H. & Heyneman, S. P (2005). Education and Social Policy in Central Asia: The Next Stage of the Transition. Social Policy Administration, 39 (4), 361-380 Hartley, M. (2003). The Promise and Peril of Parallel Governance Structures. American Behavioral Scientist, 46 (7). Harrison, M. (1994). Diagnosing Organizations: Methods, Models and Processes (Vol. 8). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Merrill, M. (2010). Central Asia: Increasing Under Diversity. International Higher Education, 59, 26-28. OECD – World Bank (2007). Higher Education in Kazakhstan. Reviews of National Policies for Education. Paris: Author. Saldana, J. (2009). The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers. London, UK: Sage Publications. Taylor, B. E., Chait, R.P., & Holland, T.P. (1999). The New Work of the Nonprofit Board. Harvard Business Review on Nonprofits (pp. 53-75). Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. Yin, R. K. (2003). Applications of case study research, 2nd edition. Applied Social Research Methods Series, Volume 34. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
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