Legal mechanisms for implementation of academic mobility in Kazakhstan

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №5 - 2013

Author: Muzhchil Savelij, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan

Academic mobility of students, teachers and administrative staff of universities within the framework of the Bologna process is of great importance. The Bologna documentation always includes postulates concerning the importance of academic mobility. УMagna Charta UniversitatumФ states: УAs in the earliest years of their history, universities encourage mobility among teachers and studentsЕФ [1]. This principle was developed in the Joint Declaration signed by the four Education Ministers (Sorbonne, 1998): УAn open European area for higher learning carries a wealth of positive perspectives, of course respecting our diversities, but requires, on the other hand, continuous efforts to remove barriers and to develop a framework for teaching and learning, which would enhance mobility and an ever closer cooperationФ [2]. It also emphasizes that УAt both undergraduate and graduate level, students should be encouraged to spend at least one semester in universities outside their own country. At the same time, more teaching and research staff has to work in European countries, other than their ownФ [2].

The Bologna Declaration puts the following tasks: УPromotion of mobility by overcoming obstacles to the effective exercise of free movement with particular attention to:

- for students - access to study and training opportunities and to related services;

- for teachers, researchers and administrative staff - recognition and valorization of periods spent in European countries, for research, teaching and training purposes, without prejudicing their statutory rightsФ [3].

The Berlin Communiqué (2003) stresses that УЕ mobility of students and academic and administrative staff is the basis for establishing a European Higher Education AreaФ [4]. The main objective of mobility is to give an opportunity to a student to get all-round УEuropeanФ education as per chosen direction, provide him with an access to recognized knowledge centers, where leading scientific schools were founded, broaden studentsТ knowledge in all fields of European culture and lick into shape, feel the spirit of a European citizen. The Prague Communiqué of Education Ministers (2001) points out that mobility will allow its participants Уto use the wealth of a European space of higher education including democratic values, variety of languages and cultures, wide range of systems of higher educationФ [5].

The Concept of academic mobility of students of higher educational institutions of the Republic of Kazakhstan was discussed and approved at a meeting of the rectors of the expanded Board of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan on January 19, 2011. As stated in this document, УAcademic mobility means moving of students or teachers and researchers on a specific academic period (including traineeship or apprenticeship), usually a semester or academic year, to another higher education institution (up country or abroad) for teaching or pursuance of researches, with mandatory transfer of credits in accordance with educational programs, developed in their universityФ [6].

Nowadays, academic mobility of students is mainly provided by means of exchange programs such as Erasmus Mundus, Erasmus Mundus Partnership and others.

The program of student and faculty mobility Erasmus was founded in 1987. Since that time, 1.9 million people took part in it. Today, representatives of more than 30 countries of the world participate in it. 90% of European universities, more than 3.100 universities from 31 countries, are involved in it. Kazakhstan was awarded with 20 scholarships (undergraduate studies Ц 9, masters course - 5, doctorate - 3, post-doctorate Ц 1, teaching - 2) within the framework of the second scholarship of the Erasmus Mundus Program for 2009-2010 [7].

At the same time, over 80 memorandums of cooperation on implementation of joint educational programs with foreign universities (Great Britain, Spain, Germany, Czech Republic, USA, Canada, Russia, etc.) are realized by universities.

A significant contribution to the development of human capital and academic mobility was the implementation of the international scholarship of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan УBolashakФ aimed at giving the gifted young Kazakhs an opportunity to study in the best universities of the world. The number of students, who want to get a quality higher education, is constantly increasing. More than 20 thousand of Kazakhstan students are being trained overseas. Nearly 3,000 holders of international scholarships of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan УBolashakФ are taught in 27 countries of the world. That promotes academic and cultural internationalization of Kazakhstan higher and postgraduate education, helps improve the quality of educational programs and research studies [8].

Academic mobility is important for personal development and employment opportunities. It promotes respect for diversity and offers an opportunity to deal with other cultures. It promotes linguistic pluralism and increases the competitiveness of higher education institutions.

To date, experience study analysis on the development of academic mobility of the leading Kazakhstan universities shows that nearly 20 students move to foreign universities for one academic period. However, not all the universities transfer credits acquired by students in foreign universities.

In this regard, credit transfer issues require the development of appropriate regulatory legal act. In fact, due to the weak integration into the international educational space, academic mobility has not gained a sufficient development, which the principles of the Bologna process involve [8].

The Kazakh Credit Transfer System of ECTS type - European Credit Transfer System Ц was developed to enable students to master individual discipline programs in the leading universities of the world, giving objective criteria for measuring and comparing learning achievements.

There is a minimum number of credits that the students has to gain to obtain the degree in Kazakhstan credit technology:

1) Bachelor - not less than 138 credits, 129 of which - theoretical training credits;

2) Qualification of specialists with higher professional education - not less than 170 credits, 161 of which - theoretical training credits;

3) Master in:

Scientific and pedagogical field - not less than 47 credits, 34 of which - theoretical training credits;

Profession-oriented field:

1.5 years of training - not less than 36 credits, 28 of which - theoretical training credits;

1 year of training - not less than 24 credits, 18 of which - theoretical training credits;

4) Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor by profile - not less than 60 credits, 30 of which - theoretical training credits [9].

Workload of one Kazakh theoretical training credit, including in-class learning and independent work of student mastering bachelor degree course comprises 45 work hours, profession-oriented master course - 60 hours, educational research master course - 75 hours, doctorate - 105 hours [9].

It is necessary to re-calculate Kazakhstan credits in ECTS credits in order to promote academic mobility of students and recognition of educational programs (of all levels and forms of higher and postgraduate education) in the European educational space.

Academic credit under ECTS is a measurement unit of discipline study workload during in-class learning and independent work. One ECTS credit equals to 25-30 academic hours.

Overall workload, besides in-class learning load, includes the following kinds of student self-instruction: essays, reports, term papers (projects), laboratory work, preparation for various types of in-process, intermediate and final checks, material collection and diploma paper (project) writing.

ECTS estimates the total workload of training activity of one academic year at 60 credits (during one semester student gains 30 credits, and during trimester - 20 credits). Duration of the academic year comprises 30 weeks and exams (final check) - 6 weeks.

The duration of training for the Bachelor degree in European countries comprises from three to four years and requires 180-240 credits respectively [10].

One shall distinguish between external (international) and internal (national) academic mobility.

External academic mobility is defined as student training in foreign universities, as well as the work of teachers and researchers in foreign educational or scientific institutions. Internal academic mobility is defined as student training, as well as work of teachers and researchers in the leading Kazakh universities [6].

Academic mobility is different from traditional training abroad because, first of all, students go to study abroad, though on a limited, but long period - from one semester to the whole academic year, and secondly, because during such training they receive full-fledged knowledge, meaning they not only learn language and study individual disciplines, but attend a full semester or a year-long course, which is counted on their return to basic university. УBasic universityФ is a higher educational institution that the student entered and whose diploma he originally wanted to obtain.

The Bologna Process differentiates between two types of academic mobility: УverticalФ and УhorizontalФ. Vertical mobility means full training of a student in foreign university, and horizontal - training in foreign university for a limited period of time (semester, academic year).

According to the Concept of academic mobility of students of higher educational institutions of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 20% of students, training for one academic period, will complete training in foreign universities by 2020. By 2020, mandatory and non-regulatory parameters for the development of academic mobility will be implemented within the framework of the Bologna process. Teaching staff of universities and research institutions will be enhanced [6].

Academic mobility will contribute to:

1) integration of Kazakhstan education into the international educational space;

2) improvement of knowledge quality and human capital level;

3) comparability and recognition of Kazakhstan's educational programs by foreign universities;

4) strengthening of internationalization of higher and postgraduate education.

Mechanism for the implementation of studentsТ academic mobility:

1. Students will independently choose a university (up country or abroad), determine the list of disciplines they want to learn and send an application to program coordinator. Coordination of academic mobility programs in the university will be effected by the international cooperation department and/ or registrar office.

2. Based on studentsТ applications, program coordinator will organize the conclusion of a cooperation agreement with another university following consultations with the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan (hereinafter - the Ministry). In this event, partner university and its educational programs must be accredited in its country and listed in the Register of accredited educational institutions and accredited educational programs. Consortium of national universities, whose purpose will be to implement joint educational programs and research studies on the basis of agreement, will be created for the promotion of internal academic mobility and optimizing the use of educational, material and technical, information and intellectual resources. Internal academic mobility will be provided between the universities that have signed the Taraz Declaration.

3. Then, based on the official invitation of the partner university, students will make up an individual study plan and coordinate it with the chair and/ or deanТs office of the faculty.

4. After that, students will send their program coordinator an application indicating the purpose of departure, destination, date, course and language they plan to study, occupation, and involved sources of funding. The application shall be accompanied by a written recommendation letter of the profile department, a written admission confirmation of the partner university, an individual study plan and a copy of studentТs record book.

5. Then, program coordinator will arrange the work of the Commission, whose purpose will be to hold competition among students. The main criteria for the competitive selection: completion of one academic period in basic university, level of studentТs grades, not below than A, A-, B +, B, B-, fluency in foreign language (preferably a certificate in foreign language).

6. Program coordinator, together with students that have passed the competition, will conclude a trilateral agreement between the student, sending and host university. In case, if a student is being sent to study at the expense of national companies or social partners, a quadripartite agreement will be concluded. This agreement shall include personal information of the student (name, sending university, country), training details (host university, country), individual study plan: list of disciplines selected for studying at the host university together with the discipline code, number of host institution credits (in case of a national system of credits), number of ECTS credits, duration of practical or on-the-job training and a semester.

7. Academic mobility can be funded by means of:

- republican budget funds;

- extra budgetary funds of the university;

- grants of national companies, social partners, international funds;

- at studentТs own expense.

8. Students studying in the host university will pass administrative admission procedures in accordance with the university rules.

9. After completion of a course at the host university, students will provide their basic universities with transcript and expense report (in case of training at the expense of republican budget funds or the university). In accordance with Kazakh Credit Transfer System of ECTS type, credits of a student will be mandatory transferred on the basis of this transcript.

10. By the end of the academic year the university will provide the Ministry with the information on the number of students that trained under academic mobility programs and information on the partner university together with data on university accreditation, educational programs and their duration [6].

The main mobility problems in Kazakhstan can be limited to the following points:

1) Lack of internationalization in the context of study plans. They are not focused on enhancing the language development, attraction of foreign professors and subsequent employment at the international labour market;

2) Potential weakness and low skilled employees of the international departments of universities in Kazakhstan;

3) Weak language skills of both students and teachers, especially in the knowledge of the second and third foreign language.

All documents of the Bologna process emphasize the need for autonomy and academic freedom of universities and educational responsibility before the society. The Bologna Charter states: УUniversities should have a moral and scientific independence from political and economic power in their research and teaching activities in order to meet all the demands of the modern worldФ and, as it is emphasized in the Bologna Declaration, УIt is highly important because independence and autonomy of universities give assurance that the system of higher education and research studies will continuously adapt to changing needs, society's demands and the need for scientific knowledge developmentФ [7].

Thus, academic mobility is an important tool of the Bologna process, which enables students to study outside of their educational institution. This helps gain experience, broaden horizons and develop intercultural communication. Further improvement of the legal mechanisms for implementation of academic mobility in the Republic of Kazakhstan is needed. It is necessary to thoroughly regulate financing issues, as well as to analyze the existing academic mobility experience of Kazakhstan and foreign students studying in our country to determine the future prospects of academic mobility.


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Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №5 - 2013

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