TRUNAK: Modernising university governance in Kazakhstan

The TRUNAK project, a capacity building project co-funded by the Erasmus + Programme of the European Union which focuses on modernising the regulatory framework for universities in Kazakhstan and their governance, is entering its second phase this summer. The first work package was dedicated to the analysis of the Kazakh regulatory framework and is led by the European University Association (EUA). This has helped to identify opportunities for and obstacles to  greater autonomy of universities, in the context of strong political drive towards more autonomy for the sector. Pointing to specific issues, such as the opacity and complexity of the current legislation or the excessive involvement of public authorities in academic autonomy, EUA issued a series of recommendations to improve the regulatory framework. The findings are summarised in a publicly accessible report.

EUA’s analysis highlights that the higher education sector in Kazakhstan remains insufficiently funded and critically over-regulated; reform processes are top-down, limiting proactive strategic approaches from universities to exploit available opportunities. EUA recommends investing in strategic policy dialogue between universities and government, designing a coherent policy framework for reform, streamlining and simplifying rules which consider the balance between autonomy and accountability and paying due attention to the implementation of the reforms.

Assisted by the practical experience of EU partner universities that have undergone governance reforms, the TRUNAK consortium established a series of priorities in each of the four autonomy dimensions, as set out in EUA’s Autonomy Scorecard, according to the different challenges identified in the analysis.

Following a series of workshops, the consortium met mid-May to agree on the main features of the model and the hierarchy of priorities, which was discussed with the Ministries of Education and of Health. Next steps in the project involve a self-evaluation by the Kazakh universities to precisely map the current capacities and needs at institutional level to adapt to the improved regulatory framework for greater autonomy. The Kazakh sector is currently undergoing a fast-paced transition with the introduction of legislation that is expected to generate more institutional autonomy. This said, sufficient support mechanisms to assist the sector in this transition are still limited. The TRUNAK project intends to provide a boost.

The TRUNAK project is supported by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union and runs until mid-october 2020.