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Accepted Paper:

Reforming Doctoral Education in Uzbekistan: Rules, Norms of Behaviour, and Informality   
Kobil Ruziev (UWE Bristol) Mokhidil Mamasolieva (University of Surrey) Dilshoda Rabbimova (New Uzbekistan University)


Doctoral education (DE) plays a crucial role in building research capacity, fostering innovation, and educating future generations, making it central to national science, technology, and innovation policies. This study analyses the recent DE reforms in Uzbekistan, the most populous country in post-Soviet Central Asia. Following independence in 1991, Uzbekistan adopted a unique approach to economic and educational reforms, prioritising its own pace and sequence, including in higher education. While not formally joining the Bologna Process, Uzbekistan adopted its three-cycle structure, including a single-tier Doctor of Science (DSc) degree in 2012. However, in a surprising policy reversal, the government reintroduced a two-tier system with Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and DSc degrees in 2016.

The study aims to systematically analyse the underlying causes behind the policy reversal in 2016, and, more importantly, to provide a critical assessment of the 2012 and 2016 DE reforms in Uzbekistan. Drawing on institutional economics, the study examines how incentive structures, including formal rules, informal practices, and established norms of behaviour, shape DE policy outcomes. We argue that effective DE reform requires not only well-defined rules but also credible enforcement mechanisms and supportive norms of behaviour. We also demonstrate that path dependence can hinder change as incumbent actors resist reforms that threaten their rent seeking power.

The study employs a mixed-methods approach, analysing relevant national regulations, secondary data, and primary data collected through semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders, including policymakers, university senior managers, academics with supervisory experience, and doctoral students. Our findings will provide valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities of reforming DE in Uzbekistan and other emerging economies. The paper calls for a nuanced understanding of national contexts and constraints when designing DE policy in emerging economies. It emphasises the need for reforms to address incentive structures, build trust in institutions, and navigate path dependence challenges to unlock the full potential of DE for frontier knowledge creation.

Panel T24POL
Straddling between ‘Legality’ and ‘Illegality’ in Everyday Life: Corruption and Informal Practices in Central Asia
  Session 1 Saturday 8 June, 2024, -