UW-Madison and American Councils for International Education: Strengthening Higher Education in Kazakhstan

All group photo at the final workshop (Almaty, Kazakhstan)
All group photo at the final workshop (Almaty, Kazakhstan)

Six UW–Madison “coaches” and six teams of administrators from Kazakhstani universities culminated nine months of work together with a final workshop in Almaty, Kazakhstan in January 2024, where they shared the experience of designing and implementing reform projects in the areas of university governance and financial management. The capacity building project was funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of State and administered by the American Councils for International Education’s U.S.-Kazakhstan University Partnerships Program along with UW-Madison’s International Projects Office in the International Division.

After co-designing plans for their projects at an initial workshop in Astana, Kazakhstan in spring 2023, UW coaches and Kazakhstani administrators consulted virtually throughout the year as the Kazakhstani teams worked to implement reform projects. The projects’ areas for reform included building cultures of and mechanisms for student entrepreneurship and faculty innovation, improving human resource practices for recruitment and retention, creating sustainable language programs for students and faculty, and staff professional development opportunities as elements of internationalization strategies.

At the January 2024 final workshop, teams had final sessions of coaching and then shared formal presentations on progress towards implementing their plans, lessons learned, and ideas for further reforms. Each of the presentations was followed by Q & A from audience members, who included the other teams, administrators from other local universities in Almaty, and representatives from the U.S. Missions in Astana and Almaty. These exchanges revealed just how challenging and exciting are the transformations that so many Kazakhstani higher education institutions are undergoing. The ultimate goal of the UPP program was to facilitate such transformations, develop new university programs and systems and, simultaneously, to plant seeds for potential collaborations in the future.

The UW faculty advisor for this program was Dr. Karen Evans-Romaine, Professor of Russian in the Department of German, Nordic and Slavic+. The program’s coordinators were Maksat Koshkarbayev (M.A. alumnus, ‘19) for American Councils, and Dr. Virginia Martin for the International Division’s International Projects Office.

For more about the individual institutional partnerships, see

UW–Madison and D. Serikbayev East Kazakhstan Technical University: Fostering a Holistic Innovation Ecosystem

UW–Madison and Yessenov University: Creating a University-driven Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

UW–Madison and Toraighyrov University: Expanding the University’s Reach Through Language Education and Administration (1/2)

UW–Madison and Ualikhanov University: Expanding the University’s Reach Through Language Education and Administration (2/2)

UW–Madison and S. Seifullin Kazakh Agrotechnical Research University: Engaging in Systems Thinking Amidst Institutional Transition

UW–Madison and K.I. Satbayev Kazakh National Research Technical University: Aligning Human Resources and Faculty Recruitment and Retention Priorities

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