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    A model for university transformation and modernisation in “New Kazakhstan”

    Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has a huge modernization and reformation agenda for his country. While explaining his vision to the public, he said: “Together we will build a New Kazakhstan.”

    Reforming the higher education sector and making it a key economic driver at par with national and global economic trends and demands is central to the President’s transformation agenda for “New Kazakhstan.”

    The President sees higher education as a channel for regional cooperation in Central Asia and beyond. Mr. Tokayev believes that exchanges of knowledge, expertise, and talent among the five Central Asian states and deepening cooperation in the higher education sector will strengthen bonds among the Central Asian states.

    One of Kazakhstan’s largest and oldest universities, the Kazakh National Agrarian Research University (KazNARU) is Central Asia’s largest research hub in food, agriculture, and environmental sciences. This globally engaged University is on the path of massive transformation under the motto, “New University, New Kazakhstan”.

    Established in 1929 as an institute, KazNARU has been a prestigious seat of learning, knowledge creation, and innovation in the Eurasian region since its founding in the late 1920s.

    Today’s KazNARU is a glaring example of the President’s vision of a “New Kazakhstan”. It has a rich history of creating and exchanging knowledge and transferring new technologies & expertise in the fields of food, agriculture, veterinary sciences, and sustainable development.

    KazNARU’s acting Rector Professor Dr. Kanat Tireuov says that as an entrepreneurial research university of the 21ist century, KazNARU trains business leaders, researchers, and scientists with a global outlook; and for national and international economies.

    “KazNARU is a global hub of innovation, strategic research, and training for knowledge seekers, creators, and disseminators in the fields of food, agriculture, and environmental sciences in the heart of Central Asia,” says the acting Rector Tireuov.

    The university’s international standing and position in international and regional rankings have been constantly improving since 2019. In the 2023 QS World University Rankings, KazNARU is number 481 in the world and the 401-410 range in QS regional rankings, Emerging Europe and Central Asia.

    Professor Tireuov is determined to include KazNARU among the world’s 200 top universities on the University’s 100th founding anniversary in 2029.

    With its 49 research labs, 18 international research centers, and nine innovation institutes, and a galaxy of celebrated professors and leading scientists, KazNARU aims to build “Knowledge Bridges and Innovations” between Kazakhstan and the rest of the world in the food & agriculture sectors, and other vital fields such as environmental sciences through the work, achievements, and contributions of its scientists, teachers, and graduates.

    Kazakhstan was the only Central Asian state to have developed three Covid-19 vaccines at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic. It was the work of KazaNARU scientists and researchers who developed three Covid-19 vaccines–two for humans and one for animals. These vaccines are included in the WHO lists of candidate vaccines.

    At the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting on September 17, 2021, in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev proudly announced that “NARUVAX-C19 and NARUVAX-C19/Nano developed by KazNARU were included into WHO registry as vaccine candidates against COVID-19.

    “I am convinced that accelerating the procedure of mutual recognition of vaccination passports in the SCO states and their integration into multilateral systems will help overcome the difficulties and challenges faced by our countries,” noted the President.

    KazNARU has a presence in the 88 districts of Kazakhstan and has 3000 agricultural farms across Kazakhstan.

    In June 2022, high-profile delegates from 38 countries gathered at KazNARU for the international forum on food security that was held in collaboration with the Islamic Organization for Food Security.

    KazNARU specializes in food sciences and technologies, particularly in the areas of food safety and food security. KazNARU hosts world-class laboratories on food technology and food safety. It has launched Central Asia’s first MBA program in food and agriculture.

    The University is also the leader in water and environmental sciences in the entire Central Asian Region. It’s the only university to have established four international research labs on renewable energy sources. KazNARU has its biogas plant and the university is conducting cutting-edge research in wind energy.

    There is an international research center ‘Water Hub at KazNARU that has 14 fully equipped laboratories. KazNARU’s water scientist, 84-year-old professor Alexssndr Alexandrovich Yakovlev, is a respected name globally, he has 100 patents in his name. Professor Yakovlev is the inventor of several technologies, machines, and equipment.

    The University uses smart technologies and has digitized education and agricultural practices. It plans to develop and implement innovative teaching and learning strategies and will conduct cutting-edge applied research in partnership with the world’s leading universities, research centers, and institutes in the next five years.

    In line with President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s vision, during 2023-2028, KazNARU will focus on strengthening and expanding linkages with Central Asian states and other member states of the CIS. Through:

    a) Student recruitment.

    As the leader in food & agriculture and having the most advanced teaching and research facilities, the university will invest most of its marketing resources and human energies in attracting bachelor, master’s, and doctoral students from neighboring Central Asian states to study at KazNARU.

    b) Research and expertise exchanges

    KazNARU has live and meaningful partnerships with universities and research institutions in the entire CIS region. KazaNARU’s Rector is the Chair of the Council of all agrarian universities in the CIS region. As the next step, KazNARU will help in forming university alliances within the CIS region. These university groups or alliances will jointly conduct research projects in the areas of common interest and, as alliances, they will also collaborate with universities and institutions outside the CIS region.

    Our mutually beneficial joint research projects will positively contribute to national and regional economies by solving pressing issues/problems and creating new knowledge.

    Together they will organize joint training activities to harmonize and improve the quality of education in the CIS Region. KazNARU will encourage junior faculty from the neighboring states to do Ph.D. studies or post-doctoral studies at KazNARU. At the same time, KazNARU scientists, faculty, and master’s students will go to universities in Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and other Central Asian states for research and study under mutual agreements.

    c) Cooperation with Business & Industry

    We will create channels to establish direct links and also through our partners, relations with food and agriculture businesses & industries in the CIS region. This move will be part of our research commercialization.

    Beyond Central Asia, KazNARU is reaching out to universities in China, India, Pakistan, the Middle East, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Africa, and even Latin American countries for building strategic alliances.

    At the same KazNARU has active collaborations with several western universities. The University aims to acquire new knowledge and technologies by working with our partners from G7 countries in the areas of its specialties.

    KazNARU is investing significant financial and human resources in international PR and marketing using the latest technologies and social media platforms.

    All the above transformation aims to help Kazakhstan’s economy grow through the work of and contributions of KazNARU’s able and skilled graduates and scientists.

    Through its global engagement strategy, KazNARU is positioned as a prominent goodwill ambassador for Kazakhstan on the world stage and a leader and economic driver in the entire Central Asian region.

    “We aim to build “Knowledge Bridges” between KazNARU and the outside world, and Kazakhstan and the rest of the world in the food & agriculture sectors, and other vital fields such as environmental sciences through the work, achievements, and contributions of our scientists, teachers, and graduates,” says the acting Rector Professor Dr. Kanat Tireuov.

    About the author: Mr. Muhammad Sheraz is the Director of the International Center for Strategic Communications at the Kazakh National Agrarian Research University (KazNARU) in Almaty, the Republic of Kazakhstan. He can be reached at: [email protected]