Higher education in Tajikistan has undergone substantial changes over the past 25 years as a result of both its internal crises and those social and economic transition challenges seen throughout the Newly Independent States (NIS). HEIs in the country have also shown eagerness to change and grow as they move toward world education space. Institutional diversity has occurred in the country along several dimensions, fueled partly by the mass creation of new programs that reflect the needs of an emerging knowledge-based economy to meet the market needs. Specific features of the increase of higher education in Tajikistan is caused by internationalization according to the Bologna Process and other globalization agendas; the establishment of international HEIs under bilateral government agreements, and significantly increasing HEI programs and enrolments in far-flung regions of the country—especially in programs related to industry and technology.
The government has set a clear vision for the future of higher education as a tool for human capital formation to further economic growth in a changing world. The National Strategy for Education Development - 2020 aims to modernize the existing contents of higher education towards more professionally-oriented skills to better meet labor market demand and to build Tajikistan’s capacity. With a view to developing the higher education system and integrating into the European Higher Education Area, the government is currently focusing on joining the Bologna Declaration. The government also aims to reform educational standards following a competency-based approach, with the active participation of employers, thus modernizing curricula through modularization.
The government has started undertaking some of the necessary reforms such as the adoption of a three-tier education system and implementation of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) in 2007. Yet major reforms, such as the establishment of a credible quality assurance system and national qualifications framework, are yet to be developed, adopted and operationalized. The government also aims to reform educational standards following a competency-based approach, with the active participation of employers, thus modernizing curricula through modularization. Thus, a major overhaul of the higher education system, especially with regard to higher education governance, quality assurance, teaching, learning and student assessment, is to be undertaken as a matter of urgency.
The main law outlining the higher education is the Law on Higher and Professional Education of the Republic of Tajikistan (last edited in 2003).
The Government of the Republic of Tajikistan has adopted the National Development Strategy - 2020, which determines the purpose, objectives/goals, directions, instruments and mechanisms for the development of education system in the Republic of Tajikistan. The Strategy highlights the importance of higher education in the economic and social development of the country.
According to the Law on Education and the Law on Higher and Professional Education, the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Tajikistan must approve the establishment and operation of the educational institutions regardless of their status. All higher education institutions have to be licensed and accredited by the State Agency on Supervision in the Sphere of Education of the Ministry of Education and Science. In the Republic of Tajikistan access to higher education is open to every person who finishes a general secondary, primary professional or vocational school (VET).
Higher Educational Institutions of Tajikistan include universities and institutes that award qualifications of a junior specialist, bachelor, specialist and master.
Currently, higher education is divided into three levels: First level (Bachelor Studies), Second level (Master Studies), and Third level (PhD Studies).
Third level of studies includes Doctoral Academic Courses (PhD), including a minimum of 3 years of study or 120 ECTS.
In the field of medical sciences (studies of medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine), integrated courses have a duration of 6 years and carry a minimum of 360 ECTS. Pharmacy studies also offer integrated courses that carry 300 ECTS (5 years of study).
Higher education institutions organize and implement study programmes within an academic year commencing, as a rule, on 1 September. HEIs in Tajikistan provide a wide range of specializations and research options.
Currently, there is no particular national strategy dealing with internationalization and mobility, but the National Strategy for Education Development envisages the mobility of international and local students as well as teachers.
At this stage, internationalization represented only in the role of mobility is offered through the Erasmus+ projects. These projects contribute to the adoption of national and university strategies for internationalization, and the incorporation of standards for mobility in the accreditation standards for HEIs.
Tajik HEIs are active in the EC programmes for international cooperation such as Erasmus+, including former Tempus and Erasmus Mundus programmes, for the period 2004-2012 Tempus has funded 35 projects for an overall budget of EUR 8.27 million with the involvement of 22 HEIs from Tajikistan. In Tajikistan, Erasmus+ represent a useful instrument for staff retraining and providing support to the most advanced universities in re-establishing links with the international academic community. The programme plays an instrumental role in modernizing curricula, upgrading skills and promoting the use of information technologies. It makes a significant contribution into the implementation of the higher education reform process, including the integration into the EHEA.
There is a great interest for participation in all types of Actions under the Erasmus+ programme, which expands the opportunities for cooperation. Currently, 20 HEIs from Tajikistan are involved in 10 Erasmus+ Capacity Building projects (CBHE), with the participation of the Ministry of Education and Sciences. In addition to that, Tajik HEIs participate in the number of Erasmus+ International Credit Mobility projects.