WENR, November/December 2007: Russia and CIS
Regulators Close down Substandard Universities
Higher-education officials in Russia have begun a crackdown on many private and small state colleges that opened in the 1990s by revoking operating licenses and citing fire and safety violations as justification, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. Regulators went into action after a fire killed 10 students at a private business school in Moscow in October. Although regulators have been looking into fire and safety compliance at these new private institutions, they have also been complaining that some of them have additional issues such as rampant corruption, the sale of diplomas, unqualified staff, and a lack of academic facilities.
Federal inspectors closed a university in Chelyabinsk for selling diplomas. And last June a private business school in Rostov-on-Don lost its license, forcing more than 1,000 students to look for a new place to study. The Federal Service for Supervision of Education and Science found that at least 30 percent of Russian universities have major violations in the quality of education, compliance with fire codes, and safety. Viktor Bolotov, the head of the service, said in August that as many as 100 of Russia’s 3,000 universities should be closed, the Interfax news agency reported.
It is now easier for the government to take such measures. Recent amendments to Russia’s higher-education law allow the service to revoke licenses and close universities without getting court approval.
– The Chronicle of Higher Education
October 29, 2007
Little Progress in Reforming Education, Post-Niyazov
Turkmenistan’s new leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov pledged early in his tenure to improve the Central Asian nation’s education system. EurasiaNet reports, however, that initial steps to develop a new culture of learning in Turkmenistan have not brought visible benefits to the education system, citing reports from observers in the capital, Ashgabat.
In approaching the legacy of his predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, Berdymukhamedov has moved cautiously. On the one hand, Berdymukhamedov has let it be known that the cult of personality built up around Niyazov is not going to be dismantled anytime soon, while on the other hand, he has spoken repeatedly about reversing some of the most damaging aspects of Niyazov’s tenure, which was marked by anti-intellectualism. During his first-ever trip to the United States in September, for example, one of Berdymukhamedov’s top priorities was establishing contacts that could help Turkmenistan revive its educational system.
Shortly after winning a special presidential election in February, Berdymukhamedov decreed the extension of compulsory education to 10 years from the nine-year system that existed under Niyazov. He also restored five-year university programs, which had been shortened to two years of classroom study and two years of practical experience under Niyazov.
Despite such steps, observers report that there has been little change in the quality of education in Turkmenistan. “We are currently on the verge of a humanitarian disaster; an entire generation of youth has been ‘written off’ from the educational point of view,” said one university lecturer, who spoke to EurasiaNet on condition of anonymity. A source at Turkmen State University said that the curriculum instituted by Niyazov is still in use. That means one of the main textbooks for all university students continues to be the Ruhnama, a spiritual guide for the Turkmen people penned by Niyazov. “We have no orders from the Education Ministry, no curriculum; we don’t know when they will be available, everything is going on in accordance with the prior scheme”, the university official said.
For those desiring a higher education there are comparatively few openings at universities and institutes. Aptitude is often not the determining factor in who is admitted. Rather, bribery reportedly still plays an important role. According to some parents, a spot in the law department at Turkmen State University can cost upwards of US$17,000, and gaining admission to the medical department is said to cost $15,000.
Recent graduates also report that the Niyazov-era requirement of two years of practical work remains in effect, despite the Berdymukhamedov edict. Under this system, former students need to work at a qualified state institution or enterprise. Yet, due to the stagnating economy (outside of the energy sector), state enterprises are reluctant to take on college students seeking to complete their degree requirement. Without proof of completing the two-year work requirement, students are unable to obtain their university degree.
October 23, 2007