Building a Higher Education Area in Central Asia: challenges and prospects

Ann Katherine Isaacs

Abstract


In recent years, for a variety of reasons, higher education has begun to be considered much more frequently than previously in terms of ‘regions’, or ‘macro-regions’. Although for decades countries sharing some characteristics, or perceived as geographically or culturally closely related to each other, have promoted forms of cooperation between their higher education institutions (with varying degrees of success), it is now widely accepted that to ‘count’ on the world stage, it is useful for single countries, and especially for smaller countries, to work together with a view to making their systems better able to interact and hopefully to promote, increase and make visible their merits. Of course, in higher education as in many other fields, the regions or macro-regions are not defined once and for all, but are the result of stronger or weaker ad hoc groupings which take into account different factors in different contexts. Central Asia is one such potential region: it does not have unquestioned boundaries, but like other macro-regions, and more so than most, it can be understood and constructed in different ways. A current shared understanding of ‘Central Asia’ is that it is formed by the 4 ex-Soviet Republics of Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), plus Kazakhstan. Over the last decade the possibility of building a Higher Education Area in those five republics has been explored, and a large-scale project which uses Tuning methodology to this end is under way. This project, called TuCAHEA (“Towards a Central Asian Higher Education Area: Tuning Structures and Building Quality Culture”), has already elaborated a Central Asian list of Generic Competences and eight Subject Area Groups have formulated their Reference Points and Guidelines. The five Ministries of the five countries have signed a Communiqué indicating their intention to collaborate more closely; a pilot student mobility scheme is soon to start. This article explores the Central Asian experience as an example of the construction of a Higher Education area in Asia, and looks at what the future appears to promise, in terms both of challenges and of positive developments.

Keywords


Tuning Process; Central Asian higher education area; Tempus projects; higher education regions; international cooperation.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18543/tjhe-2(1)-2014pp31-58

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