University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Faculty of Education Research Students' Association (FERSA) Lunchtime Seminars 2014-2015 > Understanding the Transition of Public Universities to Institutional Autonomy in Kazakhstan

Understanding the Transition of Public Universities to Institutional Autonomy in Kazakhstan

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Although institutional autonomy has recently received significant attention from scholars and policymakers in much of the world, few studies have been made of the universities in transition toward institutional autonomy in post-Soviet countries. Autonomy, and its related concept of public accountability, are relatively new phenomena in Kazakhstan’s higher education system. Learning to be autonomous presents challenges for the universities in transition from state central control to the decentralisation of education system. Based on qualitative data analysis, this paper examines university leaders and faculty members’ understandings, experiences and perspectives in relation to the transition to autonomy at their institutions. Our findings show that the challenges of the transition to institutional autonomy combine Soviet legacies, current difficulties of central control, entrenched practices of university leadership and legally limited practices of the faculty. We argue that for actual autonomy to take place, the discussed socially and ideologically constructed complexities of the universities in transition need to be dealt with by policy makers and researchers and, more importantly, university leadership.

The presentation is structured in four parts. After introducing the social context of Kazakhstan’s higher education system, it highlights nuances of the concept of ‘institutional autonomy’ based on a selection of research literature, and provides a brief review of recently-enacted higher education reforms in Kazakhstan calling for greater institutional self-governance. Next, drawing on interview data, it reveals complexities in the transition to institutional autonomy on the part of university administrators and academic staff at two established national universities. In the last section, the presentation introduces implications for higher education leaders and policy makers involved in the organisational change.

This talk is part of the Faculty of Education Research Students' Association (FERSA) Lunchtime Seminars 2014-2015 series.

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