PRIMUS INTER PARES. KAZAKH ABLAI KHAN UNIVERSITY OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND WORLD LANGUAGES IS THE FLAGSHIP OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE EDUCATION
INTERVIEW WITH SALIMA KUNANBAYEVA
For 80 years, the Ablai Khan Kazakh University of International Relations and World Languages (KazUIRaWL), which has vast experience and a rich history, remains a leader in higher education, offering innovative solutions in the training of specialists. Dr Salima Kunanbayeva, the Rector, an Academician of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and a member of the Academic Council of the University of Oxford, tells OCA Magazine about the university today.
OCA Magazine: Your name is associated with the transformation of the Almaty Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages into the Ablai Khan Kazakh University of International Relations and World Languages with its entry into the international educational space. How do you look back on this achievement?
Salima Kunanbayeva: Today, the university is a large scientific and educational complex specializing in training people in humanities, foreign languages and international profiles. This is the only university in the country that provides vocational training in 17 world languages. The range of specialties, primarily international ones, has been expanded, university faculties have been opened, and a cluster system has been thought out for the pedagogical direction of foreign languages, which includes a linguistic lyceum college, a college of international tourism, a college of international service and management, and a pedagogical college of foreign languages. Currently, the university has 7 basic faculties: the Faculty of Translation and Philology, the Faculty of Education, the Faculty of Management and International-Native Communications, the Faculty of International Relations, the Faculty of Oriental Studies, the Faculty of Additional Education and the Faculty of Economics and Law. Training at the university is conducted in 11 world languages; there are masters and doctoral studies.
OCA: The offered professions that can be obtained are undoubtedly still in fashion to this day – in fact “foreign language” professions are highly regarded, even more so today. How have your graduates fared since graduation?
SK: The main criterion for the activity of any educational institution is the demand for its graduates. Graduates of our university are competitive and in demand due to the high assessment by employers of the quality of their education. A qualified teaching staff, modern content of educational programs, the availability of a material and technical base and a well-thought-out organization of the educational process provide this quality. The demand for our graduates in the labour market is evidenced by the fact that more than 85% are employed within a year of graduation. We have many successful graduates, we are very proud of all of them. I will not list any by name, I will only note that they work in the presidential administration, the deputy corps of the Parliament, in international organizations, and in the embassies and diplomatic corps of various countries. Of course, among our former students there are many authoritative, talented teachers of foreign languages in the field of education.
OCA: If a young student enters your university. What opportunities do they open for themselves, in addition to the knowledge gained in the classroom and at lectures?
SK: The opportunity to try out research work in the form of various scientific societies and conferences, as well as the opportunity to participate in international native student exchanges and foreign internships. They are also provided with diverse cultural, sports, and leisure activities as part of their student life. The university gives students the exciting opportunity to live in university dormitories. Consultations on employment and holding career fairs, visa support for students leaving to study abroad, cultural programs for students and teachers from foreign partner universities are provided. Textbooks available to students and textbooks prepared by university teachers, monographs and collections of articles are also available.
The university is well equipped, with modern multimedia technology in use throughout. All lecture rooms are equipped with video demonstration equipment that visualizes any lesson. There are specialized language and multimedia classrooms with software, including software specifically for writers, which makes it possible to use the most modern information technologies. At the same time, we all understand that the level of a student depends not only on the services of the university, but also on their own contribution, on their motivation, diligence, and previous training.
OCA: Could you elaborate on what innovations you see developing within the university?
SK: Innovations affect every area of the university, because they are aimed at developing and implementing mechanisms that increase the real competitiveness of the university by improving the quality of all types of its activities. The main task of an innovative university is the high-quality training of innovation-oriented specialists. The training of specialists for the innovative economy requires the formation of an innovative environment of the university, including the appropriate qualifications and culture of its teachers. The University has developed and tested 4 innovative educational programs in teacher education, theory and practice of simultaneous translation and foreign philology. The basis of innovative educational programs is built on the principles of dual education as the interaction of two organizationally and legally independent spheres within the framework of officially recognized vocational training – production and higher education.
OCA: What kind of external connections are held with the business community?
SK: There is constant systematic work is going on here. For example, holding presentations of various companies at the university, carrying out research projects commissioned by companies, organizing business seminars, professional retraining and advanced training courses. We study the best domestic and foreign experiences.
For example, business or science parks are common in European countries. These are organized with the participation of local authorities based on universities premises equipped with the necessary equipment, which are rented to start-up companies. At the same time, universities provide these companies with access to their information resources, means of communication, and allow the involvement of faculty and students. These services cannot be classified as educational, but they provide universities with additional income, which is used to develop and improve the quality of educational services.
OCA: What do you see as the main aim and outcome of any university? Perhaps its graduates? Competitiveness? Prestige? Demand?
SK: The product of the university is its educational programs. An educational program is a complex of educational and related products and services aimed at changing the educational level and professional training of the consumer and provide them with the appropriate resources of an educational organization. Choosing a particular university, the student, in fact, chooses their educational program. The increase in education or qualification that a student hopes to gain because of mastering it is a measure of the quality of an educational program, so the programs of certain universities are more popular with consumers than other programs, even if the result is a standard certificate or diploma. The educational program is the product with which the university enters the market. After all, the university offers its educational programs both to their direct consumers – students and listeners, and indirectly, through its graduates, to the labour market. Thus, the consumers of educational services of the university include, on the one hand, students, and on the other hand, companies and organizations whose staffing situation the university seeks to satisfy.
OCA: Summing up our conversation, what therefore is the main mission of Ablai Khan Kazakh University of International Relations and World Languages?
SK: The university carries out its activities in the interests of increasing the educational and intellectual potential of the population of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The university is the country’s leader for innovative development of the foreign language education system. It has an effective system of strategic management and trains highly educated, competitive, intelligent professionals in accordance with international educational standards.
We co-operate with a number of foreign universities within the framework of bilateral agreements. More than 300 people from among doctoral students, undergraduates and postgraduates are sent to foreign universities annually. The exchange of students is carried out especially intensively with the universities of South Korea, Germany, Russia, the Czech Republic, China and Malaysia. Student mobility to other universities might be manifested from 1 semester to 1 academic year, as well as summer schools, including education during the summer holidays. Foreign students also have the opportunity to study at the university on an ongoing basis, within the framework of summer schools, to study Kazakh and Russian languages at the preparatory department of the university. As part of the program to attract foreign scientists, the university invites professors from other countries to give lectures and conduct scientific consultations on doctoral and master’s theses.
The mission of the university is a contribution to the common task of forming a highly intellectual nation and providing the country with well-trained personnel. We are working hard through setting serious and ambitious goals.