Constructing World Class Universities: Lessons for Central Asia

Date: 30 July 2015
Other languages: Русский язык |


“The perfect recipe for a world class university combines lots of talent, plenty of resources, a touch of governance and a plan to simmer for a long time,” summarised Mr Jamil Salmi, Global Tertiary Education Expert, during a public lecture on The Challenge of Constructing World Class Universities in Emerging Countries at the University of Central Asia (UCA) in Bishkek on 27 July 2015.

Salmi explained how world class universities should be defined by their outputs, including top graduates recognised by local and international markets, cutting edge research and dynamic knowledge and technology transfer. To achieve this, institutions need resources, talent and balanced undergraduate-graduate enrolment. International dimensions, such as international faculty and students and the use of English as the language of instruction, can further distinguish world class universities from others.

Jamil Salmi’s (centre, standing) lecture  was attended by Adilet Bekboev (front row, extreme left), Deputy Minister of Education and Science, Shamsh Kassim-Lakha (centre), Executive Chairman, UCA Board Executive Committee and Mrs Roza Otunbayeva (right), Former President of the Kyrgyz Republic.

Salmi stressed the need for benchmarking of quality in the development of new universities. He highlighted the benefits of varied resources, including government funding, endowments, tuition and research funds. Uncompromised governance can also bring advantages to institutions, including freedom from civil service rules, institutional autonomy and meritocratic human resource recruitment and management. He described how new universities are successfully relying on national diasporas and scholarships to train young people as important recruitment faculty recruitment strategies.

Salmi described three paths to creating a world class university - merging existing institutions, upgrading an existing institution and creating a new institution from scratch. Each has its own challenges, but he suggested that building a new institution from the ground up, such as Nazarbayev University, Aga Khan University and UCA, may be better since you can introduce new methods to education, avoid inherent challenges faced in upgrading, merging and existing institutions.

In his lecture, Salmi quoted Mr Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, Executive Chairman of UCA’s Board Executive Committee saying, “A world class university is not like instant coffee; it takes time to develop.”

He concluded by saying that a unique mission that defines your niche and being motivated by a commitment to excellence are key. “Dare to be different. Don’t try to fit into the model defined by somebody else. I think it is very favourable of the University of Central Asia to focus on programmes that are linked to the mountain economy and society,” noted Salmi.

The lecture was attended by Mrs Roza Otunbayeva, Former President of the Kyrgyz Republic, Mr Adilet Bekboev, Deputy Minister of Education and Science, Kassim-Lakha, Mr Jeffrey Belnap, Dean of Global College and University Dean of International Education and Dr Kadisha Dairova, Vice President, Student Affairs, International Cooperation, Government Relations, Nazarbayev University. Belnap and Dairova are both members of UCA’s Undergraduate Advisory Group.

Mrs Roza Otunbayeva addressing the audience. 
“In this country, we are trying to really focus on education and the University of Central Asia is one such effort. The experience of UCA is demonstrating how to develop and create a benchmark for education in Kyrgyzstan,” said Otunbayeva.

Salmi, a Moroccan education economist, served as the coordinator of the World Bank's tertiary education programme. Salmi is the principal author of Constructing Knowledge Societies: New Challenges for Tertiary Education and The Challenge of Establishing World Class Universities.
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