From where I sit - A hub of global ambition

April 21, 2011

Several factors have helped Kazakhstan grow rapidly in the two decades that it has been an independent country, among them abundant natural resources and proximity to large markets in Europe and Asia. As a next step, the government wants to diversify the economy and develop high-value added goods and services.

As part of its modernisation programme, Kazakhstan has singled out institutional reforms in higher education and science as a priority to foster a new generation of world-class scientists, engineers and social scientists. A crucial element in this process is a new research university.

Nazarbayev University, which was established in Astana only last summer, aims to become a globally recognised teaching and research institution. Its primary goal is to equip the country's students to compete globally by integrating teaching, research and the industrial application of science.

Two features set Nazarbayev University apart from other Kazakh institutions: first, its academic freedom and institutional independence are legally enshrined; and second, each of its schools and research centres will work with an international academic partner selected from leading universities and research institutions.

In August, we will open our schools of Science and Technology, Engineering, and Humanities and Social Sciences to an inaugural class of undergraduates. Next year, we will launch our graduate schools of Public Policy and of Business. A School of Medicine will follow in 2014, to be integrated with the university's six clinics.

Research is the second crucial component in our development strategy. One of our key goals is to train world-class researchers. To this end, we will over the next 12 months set up three research centres. We intend to attract top-level scientists regardless of nationality by offering the opportunity to conduct advanced research in cutting-edge facilities.

As a leading energy producer and exporter, Kazakhstan has a natural interest in energy-related research. The Centre for Energy Research will explore energy and energy-saving technologies. The Interdisciplinary Research Centre will advance the scientific base in a range of cross-cutting fields and contribute to the development of Kazakhstan's engineering technology. The Centre of Life Sciences will focus initially on biomedical research, but its longer-term aim is to translate innovative biotechnologies into clinical practice and to help transform Astana into the regional healthcare leader and a global biotechnological centre.

At the heart of each centre will be an enabling research environment that encompasses basic research, technological application, coordinated programmes, and consulting and analytical services in high-priority development fields.

We are pleased to have established partnerships with several leading international educational institutions, including University College London; iCarnegie (a wholly owned arm of Carnegie Mellon University); the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Duke University's Fuqua School of Business; the National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy; the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; the Argonne National Laboratory; the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center; and the University of Pennsylvania.

In 2009, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation rated Kazakhstan first out of 129 countries in its education development index. Nazarbayev University will contribute to maintaining this momentum and helping to make Kazakhstan one of the 50 most competitive countries in the world by 2015.

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