Internationalization of the Educational Activities of the University
A. T. Zhunissov, E. A. Assan, and A. M. Mukhambetzhan
At present, one of the tasks of modern higher education is that of its modernization, which helps to increase its availability, quality, and efficiency. The achievement of these goals is largely facilitated by the development of the academic mobility of students and the internationalization of universities. This article discusses the role and place of international relations in the development of the educational, scientific, and technological potential of the university.
Keywords: internationalization, academic mobility, international cooperation, international educational programs
Today, the Internationalization of Higher Education and the World University Rankings are an important criterion for the activities of universities and the main component of assessing the quality of education. To date, all Kazakhstani universities have developed an Internationalization Strategy, which considers and plans the further development of international cooperation, the development of academic mobility of teachers and students. And so, the themes of internationalization and globalization are ubiquitous in higher education in the 21st century [1–3]. According to scientists, a “global academic revolution” is taking place, involving the mobility of people, programs, and institutions; the growing prominence of collaborative research; the development of curricula as well as approaches to teaching and learning; the increasing integration of higher education institutions around the world; and the spread of the phenomenon of internationalization between educational institutions and higher education systems.
Higher education institutions and ministries of education in many countries have responded to these calls for the internationalization of the student experience in several ways. Large-scale international transformation projects such as the Bologna Process (see Maassen & Olsen, 2007) facilitate cross-national student mobility. Partnerships in curricula, research, and advocacy between institutions from different countries are common. International student trends are tracked based on sending and receiving countries. Study-abroad programs are touted as one of the most promising ways for US students to internationalize .2.
2. Practice of Academic Mobility
What is meant by this concept? There are several definitions, according to which the academic mobility of students is understood as:
a) a form of organization of student learning associated with sending students to another university for a certain period of time, after which they return to their home campus to complete their studies;
b) an integral form of the existence of intellectual potential, reflecting the realization of the internal needs of this potential in movement in the space of social, economic, cultural, and political relationships; and
c) the opportunity for students to shape their own educational trajectory, choosing among disciplines and educational institutions in accordance with their inclinations and aspirations.
The academic mobility of students is the most important aspect of international activity, which contributes to improving the quality of higher education, increasing the efficiency of scientific research, and establishing external and internal integration ties. Despite the fact that academic mobility is currently a mandatory component of the educational process, a number of problems can be identified in its development in universities. So, for example, Ostanina E. V.  rightly highlights such problems of mobility development as including:
a) the unplanned nature of funding academic mobility in the country;
b) lack of material and financial support;
c) lack of specialists in this field;
d) undeveloped special methods and mechanisms of academic exchange; and
e) lack of infrastructure for efficient exchange.
In the US, for foreign students, the cost of studying at universities starts at an average of $30,000 (while in Kazakhstan it is about $1,000–$3,000). Many students who wish to study at American universities cannot afford to pay this amount. And with European universities, this issue is resolved on the basis of bilateral treaties and agreements.
Also here you can add such common problems as:
- organizational issues (documentation, etc.);
- financial questions;
- lack of sufficient information about the opportunities to study at another university;
- psychological difficulties (adaptation to the conditions of another university);
- transferring credits back to one’s home university for courses taken at other universities;
- obtaining permission from one’s home university’s administration to take coursework at another university.
The main difficulty in the transition to a widespread practice of academic mobility is the fact that universities do not take the necessary initiative to solve the problems of the academic mobility of students. Thus, the development of student academic mobility requires serious changes in the work of universities: from new organizational requirements (for example, the implementation of joint educational programs, or assistance in finding financial resources for individual academic mobility) to a change in the regulatory and methodological framework (for example, the practice of recalculating periods of study completed at another university).
Currently, the academic mobility of students is one of the most important areas of international and educational activities of universities in Kazakhstan. Universities strive to enter the international educational space, further develop international cooperation, and participate in the QS World University Rankings. If we take the example of Korkyt Ata Kyzylorda University, this university has signed more than 70 memorandums with foreign universities and research centers in the area of academic mobility, the development of joint educational programs, and the exchange of professors. The university closely cooperates with universities in Europe, including such countries as the Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, Great Britain, Slovakia, Bulgaria, welcoming students from China, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Mongolia. Every year, under the program of external academic mobility, our students study for one semester at the Polish universities of Lodz and Katowice. Despite the developed experience with European universities in academic and scientific activities, it is necessary to further develop the practice at the invitation of professors and the academic mobility of students together with American universities.
The most popular forms of implementing joint educational programs include:
- accredited and validated programs (recognition by one university of the equivalence of the programs of another university to its own educational program);
- franchising programs (transfer by one university to another of the right to implement its educational program while retaining the right to control the quality of training);
- programs of dual and joint degrees (harmonization of curricula and programs, teaching methods and assessment of students’ knowledge, mutual recognition of learning outcomes in partner universities, issuance of joint degrees).
3. Principles of Internationalization of Universities.
– Drivers for entering the international educational space.
Education is built into the process of global economic, political, and cultural integration and unification, which has been unfolding throughout the world in the last decade. A manifestation of this is the general unification of knowledge, which results in the expansion of national educational systems beyond state borders, the internationalization of education, and the formation of a single global educational space and market for educational services. The globalization of education is manifested in the harmonization of the education systems of countries among themselves, the unification of education levels and qualification frameworks, the openness and cross-border nature of education, and the ability to receive it from anywhere in the world. The processes of global integration contribute to the formation of entire regions of the unification of national education systems. A striking example of this is the single European educational space, formed as a result of the implementation of the Bologna Process, which today is joined by countries located not only in Europe, but also far beyond its borders. Recently, a new powerful impetus to the expanding globalization of education has been given by information technologies and the digitalization of education, destroying the national boundaries of education in principle, and allowing us to talk about the formation of a single global digital educational space that defines new competitive conditions for all players in the educational market [6, 7].
Development of International Cooperation and Participation in the QS World University Rankings
The QS World University Rankings are published annually by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), a British company founded in 1990 specializing in education and study abroad. The rankings were first published in November 2004 under the unified branding with Times Higher Education (THE-QS). Since 2010, the QS rating has been published independently. QS has adopted the THE-QS collaborative ranking methodology. QS collaborates with the Dutch academic publishing company Elsevier and, accordingly, with the Scopus database to obtain the necessary information when compiling its rankings. The QS World University Rankings is one of the most respected of its kind. QS also publishes a ranking of universities under 50 years old, subject and industry rankings, regional rankings (Arab region, Asia, Latin America, BRICS, and Emerging Europe and Central Asia), ratings for employment of university graduates (QS Graduate Employability Ranking), a ranking of the best student cities, and a ranking of national education systems.
Memoranda with Foreign Universities and Research Centers under the Academic Mobility Program
Academic mobility programs are educational exchange programs for students lasting 1 to 2 semesters. The learning outcomes are re-read at the sending university.
Korkyt Ata Kyzylorda University organizes academic mobility programs for both sending and receiving students. The academic mobility of students is one of the tools for integrating the university into the global educational space, and therefore is consistently one of the points in a memorandum of understanding between Korkyt Ata Kyzylorda University and foreign partner universities.
Students studying through academic mobility programs master the educational program at two universities according to a pre-agreed integrated curriculum, which means that Korkyt Ata Kyzylorda University students receive credit for their courses successfully completed at a foreign university.
To date, the university offers academic mobility programs in several areas of personnel training, allowing them to study at a foreign university for 1 semester. The number of programs may vary.
Development of Joint Educational Programs and Exchange of Professors
The practice of creating joint educational programs by universities has been going on for more than a decade and a half. From a simple exchange of students for a short period (1 to 3 months), universities are increasingly moving toward the implementation of joint educational programs. And if before the beginning of the new millennium the creation of such programs was at the initiative of the universities themselves, now it is already under the direction of policymakers in education, under whom state programs are created and financial resources are allocated. It is worth noting that even in the United States over the past decade we have seen a radical change in the position regarding educational cooperation. The policy of “self-reliance” in the leading universities (Harvard, Stanford, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, etc.) is changing to the idea of diversifying education, which is possible due to the inclusion of a student’s education for at least 6 months at another leading university on a reciprocal basis. This is not an admission of the universities’ own weakness; the fact is that the current pace of production development and the increased rate of implementation of innovative developments, as well as their diversity, clearly require from the education system, firstly, much higher rates of incorporation of new ideas and technologies into education and, secondly, diversification in the educational process .
The innovativeness of production, the need to include innovative developments (different, we note, in different countries), and the need to diversify personnel training are the objective basis for creating joint educational programs.
Joint programs are a recognized tool for increasing the competitiveness of universities and, as a result, national / regional education systems.
In the context of strengthening the processes of globalization and integration in the international arena in all spheres of public life, the development of the higher education system must also be carried out in the direction of ensuring its comparability (in the field of applied mechanisms, criteria, and standards) with foreign systems of higher education. Such comparability will create a favorable basis for the development of joint educational programs, one of the positive effects of which is the enrichment of existing educational programs with innovative elements of programs at other universities. Through the development of joint educational programs, universities are given the opportunity to enter the educational markets of other countries.
In order to study the experience of internationalization of higher education both in the world and in Kazakhstan, a lot of research has been done so far. Articles have been written on the development of a strategy for international cooperation of universities in the Republic of Kazakhstan, but there are many problems, such as: lack of proper infrastructure, the poor material and technical base of universities, insufficient level of English language proficiency (both for teaching staff and students), poor knowledge of culture, traditions, routine of the proposed partner university, cultural differences, content of educational programs, as well as poor academic mobility of teaching staff and students, insufficient development of scientific research and joint research projects with partner universities. This situation does not provide the proper development of international relationships and cooperation of domestic universities with foreign partners.
Trends in the modern development of the internationalization of educational services indicate that this process is becoming increasingly important every year in the development of higher education around the world. This leads to the need to solve new problems in ensuring the competitiveness of the university on the international scene, as well as to search for new approaches to strategic management. The solution of various problems in the internationalization of educational services contributes to improving the image of the university. It should be noted that in addition to funding and other difficulties and obstacles, the challenges of differences in curricula, and of transferring credits and courses, and of harmonizing assessment systems remain the main problems that must be resolved at the time of signing agreements.
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