Accepted Paper:

International Accreditation in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan: Different Rationales and Different Results  


Martha Merrill (Kent State University)

Paper long abstract:

Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan have substantially different approaches to international accreditation, leading to different results. As of May 2016, Kyrgyzstan (with 54 higher education institutions) had two programs with international accreditation and Kazakhstan (with 146 HEIs) had over 370. Both nations have internationally co-sponsored institutions, but this research considers the international accreditation of domestic universities.

Kyrgyzstan, although it can not become a member of the Bologna Process, has been implementing Bologna Process reforms since 2012 (Merrill and Ryskulova, 2012; Merrill, 2012) and is in the process of shifting from state attestation to independent accreditation (Merrill, 2016). However, concerns about corruption make attestation and accreditation suspect to some members of the public (DeYoung, 2011) and some educators (Ryskulova, 2017). Therefore, program administrators at a few universities seek international accreditation. Two programs partnered with German institutions and the German donor agency, GIZ, have been accredited by German agencies.

Business programs at two other universities are considering accreditation through the US-based organization, ACBSP, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, hoping to emphasize their quality in Kyrgyzstan's competitive higher education markets (personal communications, March and June, 2015). International accreditation does not involve interaction with the Ministry of Education or other government authorities; it reveals efforts of institutions to mark their distinctiveness and quality. However, the process is long and costly, and not well understood by many in the public.

Kazakhstan, on the other hand, has a government-sponsored vision of "Kazakhstan 2050" (Aitzhanova et al, 2014; State Program, 2010), emphasizing both "global and regional integration." As a member of the Bologna Process, Kazakhstan is committed to following the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance (Standards, 2015). Accreditation by agencies accepted into the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR) is valid in Kazakhstan. The 2011 Law on Education states: "Kazakh HEIs are encouraged to pass international specialised accreditation." (EACEA, 2015, p. 11) Eight agencies that are registered with EQAR currently operate in Kazakhstan (EQAR, n.d.), and non-European agencies are active as well. ASIIN (Germany) has accredited 173 programs at 12 universities in Kazakhstan. Another major player, ACQUIN, has accredited 126 programs at 14 Kazakh universities.

Membership in the European Higher Education Area plus government mandates and aspirations appear to drive the push toward international accreditation in Kazakhstan. Kyrgyzstani higher education institutions, motivated only by their own desires and competitive instincts, are less able to staff and fund such international reviews.

Panel EDU-01
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan: Perspectives and models of educational access, quality and outcomes