ERG SES C 08, Education and the Bologna Process
This paper is presented within the context of a large three-year research project sponsored by the Ministry of Education of Kazakhstan and conducted by team of international researchers at Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Education in consultation with an international expert advisory group. Both presenters are involved in this project as junior researchers.
In education as in economics, some countries lead reforms and others try to adopt their best practices eventually leading to worldwide standardized models of higher education (Ramirez, 2010). Being leaders and being followers have certain advantages and disadvantages. The European Higher Education Area (EHEA) made a decision to reach common stated goals and implement best practices jointly through various agreements. For example, by signing the Bologna Declaration in 1999, some countries agreed to reach common goals and synchronize educational systems. Other nations seek to join the Bologna Process, in the process adopting those “best practices”. The benefits of joining the Bologna Process are benchmarks and a consulting body that engages in ongoing discussions among member countries. However international standards implemented locally can generate “considerable frictions”and issues, as institutions try to manage change (Shields, 2013).The aim of this paper is to explore some of the challenges faced in Kazakhstan, which became a Bologna signatory in 2010. The focus is especially on the challenges faced by International Office Directors and staff.
The source of challenges in establishing Bologna Process standards in Kazakhstan, and potentially for any new signatories, comes from system wide and university specific differences in the education system as well as cultural resistance to new initiatives. Being one of the post-Soviet countries, Kazakhstan’s higher education system is heavily controlled by the government (Heyneman, 2010). Some efforts have been made to reach European standards e.g. the introduction of a new credit system, three academic degree levels (bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees), allowing international accreditation of the former state-controlled only accreditation and so on (Dixon & Soltys, 2013). These measures do not seem to be implemented systematically, and are clearly far from EHEA standards, which have been harmonizing and modernizing education systems since the late 1990s (Laurel, 2008).
One of the challenges is related to reaching the Bologna Process goal of having 20% of students with international mobility experience by 2020. Our prior research on motivating factors of Kazakhstani students in international student mobility programs included interviews with students who had experienced international mobility, faculty, and policymakers. It informed us on challenges that arise in implementing mobility programs. For example, the number of majors (n=165) and requirements for core components are defined by the Ministry of Education and Science, which is not flexibly responsive to the market needs. Thus, students who have earned credits at host institutions in Europe through short term mobility programs might have problems transferring them to their home university. Some universities do not have established processes and resources for establishing partnerships and sending students to European institutions. In providing internal mobility, most universities lack services and infrastructure to accommodate international students. Universities do not have courses taught in English or other languages.
This is one example of the challenges faced by universities, specifically by International Offices, in trying to adapt to the Bologna requirements as they internationalize. This paper will further examine other challenges faced by university International Offices in Kazakhstan, addressing the question, “What are the challenges for new Bologna Process signatories in reaching newly committed common goals?” The focus will be on challenges faced at institutional level by international offices.
Dixon, J. & Soltys, D. (2013) Implementing Bologna in Kazakhstan: A guide for universities. Almaty-Astana: Academepress. Heyneman, S. (2010) A Comment on the Changes in Higher Education in the Post-Soviet Union. European Education, 42(1), pp. 76-84. Laurel, S. (2008) The Bologna Process and Its Impact in Europe: It’s So Much More Than Degree Changes. Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, 41, p. 107.Shileds, S. (2013) Shields, R. (2013) Globalization and International Student Mobility: A Network Analysis. Comparative Education Review, 57(4), pp. 609-636. Ramirez, F. (2010) Accounting for Excellence: Transforming Universities into Organizational Actors. Higher Education, Policy, and the Global Competition Phenomenon. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
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